As fashion continues its ongoing love affair with ‘70s-inspired styling, one has to wonder if the decade really was that smooth. Are we seeing the fashion of bygone days through rose-tinted glasses?
Every week my inbox is full of press releases and email newsletters about the ‘70s comeback. Girls with long wavy hair smile at me from fields and festivals, floating through the frames in flowing cotton frocks. Scrolling offers flashes of leather, fur (or fake fur), fedoras, platforms, and a lot of flared legwear. Knee high boots and suede satchels swing across the screen.
‘70s chic is so hot right now, and the consensus amongst fashion bloggers and magazines is that 2015’s version is even cleaner than 2014’s. But every now and again, looking at a runway image of yet another fashion incarnation supposedly channelling the era, I have to ask, were the ‘70s ever really this kind of chic?
“Of course ‘70s outfits are gorgeous. Haven’t you seen The Virgin Suicides?” is one response I got to the question. Worrying, because The Virgin Suicides is a late ‘90s film set in the ‘70s, making the fashion onscreen a slightly nostalgic take. Yet the movie is often cited as an iconic example of the period, as if it’s a documentary shot in the ‘70s on Super 8.
Almost Famous is another cinematic outing considered by many to be replete with gorgeous examples of ‘70s fashion, but Kate Hudson’s version of Penny Lane was made for 2000 release – decades after the actual era – and the onscreen ‘70s wardrobe was filtered to appeal to a post-grunge audience.
Truth is, the bulk of ‘70s wear wasn’t always easy on the eye. Sure, stunning editorial of Angelica Houston or Iman are one thing, but ask friends and family for photos from days gone by and you’ll see some scary street snaps of disco gone clashingly wrong, or hippy wear translating to dirty, crusty threads. For the average suburban person, memories of ‘70s fashion comes with a bit of a cringe factor.
Not forgetting the everyday badly fitting and unflattering ensembles made from less than stellar fabrics. Think outfits that look like they were pulled from the costuming department of Carrie, a ’70s film actually made in the ’70s. Frankly, that movie did not strive to romanticise fashion of the day.
On the cosmetic front, a lot of the ’70s saw heavy makeup trends (glossy red lips, blue eye shadow, thick foundations, fake lashes) that have somehow slipped from memory, if current-day makeup tutorials offering to help you perfect sheer fresh-faced ’70s beauty are anything to go by.
Likewise, there’s the determined misconception that everyone wore healthy, wavy, free-flowing hair. What happened to the terrible frizz, the out-of-control perms, the heavy-handed hairspray habits, and badly applied home bleaches gone wrong? The minimalist clean looks being pitched today as seventies classics, once again, seem more reminiscent of the nineties (think Kate Moss for Calvin Klein) than the height of ’70s glamour.
“Modern ’70s” is the new label you’ll find popping up on in the internet to describe today’s style trends. To be completely honest, it feels like consumers are getting a pared down, reimagined take on ’70s fashion that is actually sourced from the ’70s revival of the ’90s and new millennium. We’re quite a way down the line now from the original material, and I think it shows.