Opening in 1977, the infamous New York City dance club known as Studio 54 officially ushered in the disco era. Other discos had preceded it, but none was as infamous or influential. Later that year, the movie "Saturday Night Fever" helped to spread disco music and culture to the rest of the country. Although often dismissed as "cheesy", disco era fashion trends have surprising staying power.
You can't talk about disco fashion trends without talking about polyester--the fabric of the era. Developed by DuPont in the 1953, it was soon followed by Spandex in 1959. DuPont's trademarked name for this new fabric is Lycra. Lycra Spandex eventually makes its way in into professional dance-wear in the 1960s. This new fabric is lighter, dries quickly and allows complete freedom of movement. When the disco scene explodes in the 1970s, Lycra Spandex dance leotards, unitards and skirts become the new uniform for women---and some men--on the disco dance floor.
By the mid-70s, finding clothing not made from polyester is a challenge. Modern apparel is constructed with newer versions of these original polyester fabrics---now known as microfibers.
As the disco era rolled on through the late 1970s, the dance-wear inspired fashion and fabric continued to evolve. Shiny, brightly coloured spandex disco jeans became a dance floor fixture. These stretch trousers fit like a glove, but without restricting movement or being uncomfortable.
Although the look and composition are different, it is hard to find trousers today that do not contain a bit of Spandex. From jeans to work trousers, the comfort of stretch fabric that allows clothing to move with the body is something we can't seem to give up.
Drawing inspiration from nights spent at Studio 54, designers like Halston and Diane Von Furstenburg start producing slinky, body-hugging dresses and jumpsuits in stretch fabric. The exotic sounding polyester "Qiana,"---which had been around since 1968--makes the construction of these clothes possible. Giving "all the appearance of silk" and "washing like a dream," according to Time magazine, this new stretch fabric is perfect for the dance floor. As for Diane Von Furstenburg's iconic 70s polyester wrap dress, it reappeared in the mid-90s and is still popular today.
Platform shoes have been around since at least the Renaissance. Not seen since the 1940s, disco made them popular again for both men and women. The well-known goldfish platform was the most controversial because of the live goldfish inside. Today an updated version comes complete with a plastic goldfish. In the 2000s the platform shoe emerged in women's fashion again, looking very similar its disco cousin.
Men's Disco Clothes
When it comes to fashion men usually get short-changed, but not during the disco days. Who can forget John Travolta posing on the "Saturday Night Fever" movie poster, his arm pointing up in the sky? In his bright white three-piece, skin-tight polyester suit, Travolta becomes the male fashion icon of the disco era. Soon after, the skin-tight polyester trousers, patterned Qiana shirts and gold chains he sported in the movie are seen on men of all ages. Before this, men's suits were made of traditional non-stretch fabrics like wool and linen.
Another disco fashion highlight--or lowlight, depending on your sense of humour---is the leisure suit. It replaced the traditional suit jacket with one resembling a casual shirt. The catch is both trousers and jacket are made from very thick polyester fabric and you still have to wear a regular shirt underneath.
While leisure suits are now relegated to costume and Halloween parties--thanks to micro-fibre--the comfort level in men's trousers and suits remains. Many fitted shirt styles for men today now contain spandex, and some shirts owe their patterns and designs to that bygone era.
Gold Lame, sequins, shiny fabrics and fake fur added to the disco look. Fabrics and accessories up until then only seen on special occasions are now OK to wear out every night--a disco fashion trend legacy that lives on.
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