Some have called the 70s the polyester decade because fashion designers went overboard with synthetics in this decade. The hippie fashion of the late 60s had rolled into the early 70s restyled to fit into the mainstream. Designers started turning our wider and loose garments. Fashion often looks back the years for inspiration and the 70s were inspired by the 30s and 40s. Traces of Grecian and Victorian designs could be seen in the long draping evening gowns of the 70s. The mini and other short dress designs faded to be replaced by mid-calf designs or midis. At the end of the decade, disco-inspired party dresses were all the rage for evening wear with lots of sparkle and glamour.
The hippie movement was big on handmade designs and decorations. Crocheting and knitting, beading, embroidery, felting, quilting, and smocking were adopted by mainstream fashion designers like Zandra Rhodes. The designs were mixed with synthetic fabrics, the preferred synthetic being polyester. The prairie dress that was a big trend of the hippie movement, was restyled; made with polyester, and embellished with flounces and floral patterns.
The hippie influence was seen in evening dresses at the beginning of the 70s empire dresses. These were long and flowing dresses that reached to the floor. The dresses had a long and columnar look, and draped and flowed over the wearer’s curves. Chiffon was the preferred fabric for its light and fluttery look. Some designs came with loose and wide bat sleeves, and occasionally a large cape.
The hippie style peasant or granny dress got a Victorian restyling with a narrow waist and full skirt. Ruffle trim and lace insets were popular embellishments on these dresses. These dresses were very popular as party dresses, especially for the younger generation.
The disco scene had exploded in the 70s with young people flocking nightclubs looking glam most nights of the week. Party dresses for women shimmered and sparkled under the lights. These dresses were made with smooth satin and velvet fabrics which were easier to reflect light. Lycra was also blended in to provide the stretch needed for freer dance movements. They were decorated with sequins and feathers to add a touch of glitz. Designer Halston’s disco dress designs were popular for their shimmering sequins and swirling skirt bottoms. Some designers used metallic fabrics to make dresses that were strictly evening wear. The shine and sparkle looked transformed and highlighted the wearer on the dance floor in a wonderful way.
The bodice top hugged the figure and kept the bustline in sharp profile. They had halter necks with thin straps and barebacks. The narrow waist draped into along a long flowing skirt that created a draping effect to bring out a look like a Greek goddess.
The wrap dress design was one of the most popular in the mid-70s. This was a simple design that could switch from an office dress to a party dress with simple accessorizing. It was a knee-length dress that was designed like a robe. It fastened with a sash belt tied at the front. There were no buttons or zippers, making it very easy to wear or take off. It was popularized by designer Diane Von Furstenberg. She cheekily opined that the dress could be removed and put back on fast, allowing women greater freedom in having a happy time. This design sold in the millions. Women were impressed with the flexibility it afforded in switching from work into the club. All the wearer had to do was get into comfy strap sandals or flats, do the hair, and put on a few sparkly jewelry pieces to get ready for the club. Young women who were increasingly getting into the workforce and feeling more sexually liberated loved it.
The draping skirt remained popular until the end of the decade. The ballet skirt’s design was borrowed from the circle skirts of the 50s. It was also great for wearing on the dance floor, allowing the wearer the fancy moves of the 70s disco.
The ever-trendy minidress never really faded away in the 70s. Cute mini dresses were restyled and made in shiny satin and adorned with sequins or metallic fabric to add the sparkle to the party.