Fashions in the 1970s were a mix of the natural, casual hippie look and a flashier glamour style. Synthetic fabrics gave many '70s clothes their characteristic shiny look and fashions reflecting an affluent Venice Beach lifestyle also became popular. Dresses from the era are an ideal way to give your wardrobe some vintage glamour, but they are also easy to wear with other modern, relaxed styles.
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Halter neck dresses were popular in the 1970s, but had a less structured look than the classic 1950s silhouette. The '70s halter neck, fastening behind the nape, was often a casual tie with a beach feel. Without a corseted waist or full skirt, '70s halter necks have a slinky, relaxed appearance that does not require heels or formal hair to carry it off. Although halter necks accentuate the shoulders, the draped fabric and loose-tied waists of '70s dresses gave an overall relaxed look that created a lean, rather than curvaceous, shape. Team a '70s style halter neck dress with fluffy straight hair, a floppy hat, sunglasses and ethnic beads for an authentic look.
Maxi dresses were ankle skimming and became popular in the 1960s. Cotton florals gave '70s day dresses a natural look, holding on to the flower-power spirit of the previous decade. Yet, many evening maxi dresses were slinky, made from silky fabric and sometimes slashed to the thigh. The top of the evening maxi-dress would be figure-hugging, often with a revealing, plunge neckline. Like the decade's halterneck shape, maxi dresses created a lean figure and were designed to show off tanned arms or legs. Wear a '70s-style maxi dress with bouncy, waved hair, glitzy heels and plenty of bronzing gel. High, frilled necklines with puffed "mutton chop" sleeves were the less revealing option for '70s maxi dress fans.
Midi and Mini
Mini dresses were still around in the 1970s, though not usually as structured in style as the '60s modernist shifts. An empire line, where the waist is nipped in directly under the bust, was popular and seen in baby-doll style dresses. These often featured layers of sheer chiffon, for a lingerie look. For daytime, knee-length polyester shirt-dresses were made in a variety of patterned prints. These usually had loosely nipped-in waists, designed to be structured with a belt, and A-line skirts.
The '70s are often remembered for the love of polyester. Cheap, new, synthetic fabrics provided affordable ready-to-wear clothing since the 1950s, but by the '70s new textures and finishes became available. Popular shiny garments were made from crepe de chine polyester, satinized polyester and viscose rayon. Day dresses from brands, such as Laura Ashley, were often made from heavy cotton rarely found in fashion items now and this is a good indicator of authenticity. Celia Birtwell's flamboyant floral textiles are also worth seeking out.
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