You Should Be Reading: Seventies Fashion


To demonstrate the radical disruption of fashion that emerged with the late 1960s, early 1970s counterculture, my fashion history professor presented side-by-side photos of Yves Saint Laurent, above. On the left, it’s 1957, and Saint Laurent has just succeeded Christian Dior as head designer after Dior’s untimely death; on the right, it’s 1971, and Saint Laurent is releasing his first men’s fragrance, Pour Homme. This is how one man changed in a little over a decade, from neatly combed hair to long, feathered hair, and from an impeccable suit to–nothing. This form of anti-fashion rejected cleanliness, neatness and order so vehemently that what remained were bedspreads and body paint. My favorite reference for this lawless era of twentieth century fashion is Life’s August 1969 Woodstock issue, which is available in full on Google Books. If you’re lusting over the flowing skirts, bell-bottoms, suede, fringe and blanket-wraps of this spring’s latest revival of the 1969 look, consider the articles linked below, which discuss past periods of 1970s revivalism, the “Schizophrenic Seventies,” and the origin of the “natural look.”  

1. Gregson, Nicky, Kate Brooks, and Louise Crewe. (2001). Bjorn Again? Rethinking 70s Revivalism through the Reappropriation of 70s Clothing. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture, 5 (1), 3-27.

The article is concerned with the complexities of 70s retro fashion in Britain, specifically with understanding the ways in which 70s fashion has been reappropriated and worn anew in the late 90s and the early twenty-first century. It examines the discourses and dispositions that shape the consumption of these fashions and, more generally, with what these have to contribute to debates about 70s revivalism. The argument is based on the identification and analysis of the various discourses and dispositions people deploy around 70s retro fashion; how they wear this, how they talk about it, and the meanings they ascribe to the practices of their consumption. The article shows that this involves reappropriation rather than nostalgia, fun and laughter, and the mobilization of cultural capital through multifarious displays of knowingness. It is argued that there are two main modes of appropriate appreciation around original 70s clothing: “the carnivalesque” and “knowingness”. These are each discussed in depth, and the article concludes by discussing what this understanding of 70s retro fashion has to contribute to the general debate about 70s revivalism. – Full Article Abstract

2. Steele, V. (1997). Anti-Fashion: The 1970s. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture, 1 (3), 279-295.

Following the 1960s fashion revolution, 1970s style was pulled in radically different directions because people disagreed about where fashion should go. Georgina Howell in In Vogue termed it “The Schizophrenic Seventies”. The article questions this term, and looks to demonstrate that there was some deeper cultural unity beneath the chaotic clash of styles. Steele contends that during the 1970s fashion was not in fashion, and as a result fashion journalists adopted a new language of freedom and choice. A narcissism and self-indulgence seemed to characterize contemporary society, and the cultural radicalism of the 1960s diffused throughout the wider society. – Full Article Abstract

3. Welters, L. (2008). The Natural Look: American Style in the 1970s. Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture12 (4), 489-510.

The natural look was a trend of the 1970s that emphasized a natural appearance in hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories. The natural look arose from antagonisms in several oppositional cultures at different times, each involving a rejection of mainstream fashion. The natural look is divided into six categories: Natural Body, Natural Hair and Cosmetics, Natural Materials, Handcrafted Clothing and Accessories, and “Nature” Sells Fashion. This article examines the sites of opposition that led to the natural look, the manifestation of “natural” in fashion, and its lasting effect on fashion and appearance into the twenty-first century. – Full Article Abstract

Image credits: and

Related Articles

1 Comment

  • Tamsen Young March 10, 2015 08.46 am

    A good list of readings, however may I suggest the newly published “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston Fashioning the ’70s” by Patricia Mears and Emma McClendon. It accompanies the current exhibition at The Museum at FIT.å300211511&nat=false&sort=$rank&sf1=keyword&st1=Mears&m=2&dc=7



Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at :, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.