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Slacks Relapse: A Look At Chick Pants Of The 1970s

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OTHER than a brief Capri pants fad during the early Sixties, women rarely wore pants in public. It was dresses and skirts only. Then the Women’s Liberation movement hit its stride in the Seventies, and the ladies started to get in on the pants action. Just as the miniskirt had been a proclamation of the youth culture, pants became a proclamation of gender equality. If men can wear hideous corduroy bell-bottoms, by God, the women can too!

Yes, it was unfortunate that this new-found fashion liberation landed smack dab in the Seventies – a time not known for its exemplary taste in attire. Indeed, women started jumping into slacks at time when they were high waisted, butt-hugging, and ultra-flared at the bottoms. Men wanted the miniskirt back, but it was too late. Trousers were in, and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it.


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What’s the only thing worse than a pair of ‘70s polyester pants? The answer: the dreaded pantsuit. These highly unflattering slacks had an elastic waistband that was so high, it nearly reached the armpit. The addition of a matching top only made things worse. The pantsuit was perhaps the low-watermark of the decade, followed closely by Vietnam and Watergate.


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You’ll note that women generally wore platforms or wedges, otherwise their feet would be completely lost beneath the umbrella of the bell bottom. Many of you may recall the tremendous amount of static electricity generated by bell bottom cuffs grazing the carpet as you walked. You could shock the hell out of your friends by simply touching them with your finger.


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You’ll also recall that the shirts were never untucked, and since the style was both high-wasted and ultra-tight up top, this presented problems. A tucked-in shirt would be painfully obvious bunched-up underneath; with unpleasant looking wrinkles and bumps in the ass area. What to do? The answer is in the picture insert above: “bodyshirts”.


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The bodyshirt wasn’t some strange and rare ‘70s anomaly; those of you who lived it can attest that bodyshirts were commonplace. So, to review: the advent of chick pants necessitated two fashion adaptations – (1) the platform shoe to cope with the bell-bottoms and (2) the bodyshirt to cope with the ass-hugging high-waistline. I’m inclined to think sticking with dresses might’ve been a whole lot easier.


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I happen to love ‘70s fashions, but there’s a limit to what I can handle. This page from a 1970 catalog illustrates my tipping point, where I’m no longer on board with ‘70s styles. How in the name of all that is holy was this ever considered attractive? Or am I just missing the point altogether – that this was a statement of gender equality, and the less attractive it looked, the better. If so, they succeeded handily.


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Form-fitting polyester isn’t very forgiving when it comes to tracing the contour of a backside. You’re going to need all the help you can get erasing even the slightest pantyline or dimple. Pray the “Easy-care Dacron polyester gabardine” keeps things smooth.

Or you could just go with black, the great concealer…


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But let’s not get carried away. Wear this number in public and you’re in danger of being mistaken for a superhero of some kind. Although, I wouldn’t recommend fighting crime in open-toed shoes.


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“Cling of bodysweater
Flare of pants –
Wow, what a great look!”


Sadly, the fashions soon spread to all age groups. What started as a progressive fashion statement soon became a shame for the whole family to bear. Of course, I’m no fan of today’s baggy pants either, so perhaps it wasn’t so bad.

….Okay, it really was bad. There’s no sugar-coating it. ‘70s chick slacks were freaking awful….. ‘70’s chick jeans on the other hand were divine.


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This is like a wet dream for the lactose tolerant. All the horrific trademarks are there: form fitting, high-waisted with huge flares. Yet, all is forgiven. Like the country singer, Conway Twitty, was wont to declare: “Lord I love that lady wearin’ tight fittin’ jeans.”



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  • Cliff Walk

    I have absolutely no memory of bodyshirts.

  • mahatmacoatmabag

    back in the 70’s the vast majority of women were still slim waisted and looked good in bell bottoms & platform shoes, nowadays we see far too many scruffy tattooed obese women wearing joggers, ski pants, leggings & other unsuitable trouser wear parade their fat booties up & down our streets in spike heels that in the 70’s only street corner hookers in hot pants wore

  • Pinky’s Mom

    I know they’re an eyesore now. But here’s why we wore them…

    The polyester outfits, especially the pants and pantsuits, were wash-and-wear, a big-plus back then. They were also inexpensive to maintain, compared to what people had been spending on more structured clothing, which had to be dry-cleaned, with its skirt and jacket linings and silk, wool, fine cottons, and linen blends. Clothing pre-polyester was fussy clothing, requiring a lot of time commitment and serious planning; people had far fewer outfits when clothing was harder to take care of, so you had to make sure that your favorite pink blouse was drip-dried and carefully ironed before the big date or the big interview—or you would have to wear something else that wouldn’t go with your gloves or something, and you didn’t have a hairband to match properly…well, you had a fashion faux pas in the making. You couldn’t just throw the blouse in the washing machine and hope it would be OK; pretty clothing was delicate clothing, and was a production number for the woman. You had to keep it like a pet. A lot of stuff couldn’t just go in the dryer. And lot of people didn’t even have dryers…they hung stuff in the yard, where you had to wait a few hours for something to be dry…or you grabbed it still wet, so you could iron it before the wrinkles set. Time? Women had to spend a lot of time on clothes then.

    Women had “arrived” by the 1970s, and wanted more of their time to themselves. They didn’t want to be married to the washing machine and ironing board and the dry-cleaner anymore. Being that the polyester stuff was cheaper to buy and maintain, a woman could also afford more clothes, giving her more variety. And the youth-trended styles also didn’t call for expensive jewelry to complete the look; lucite, glass, or wood jewelry answered the need. Having wash-and-wear clothing also made it easier for women to go to work outside the home.

    Oddly enough, except for the very young, who favored long, lank hair, hair styling often remained very elaborate, even with these minimalist fashions. Women loved to wear wigs, wiglets, curls, stack their hair to give them that “goddess” look. What they didn’t do for their polyester clothes, they did for their hair. Unless you had a very short hairstyle, you simply could not live without hot curlers and setting routines. Blow-dryers weren’t around quite yet.

    The nasty high-waisted polyester pants were more comfortable than the old skirted fashions that required the gartered hose or pantyhose that women nearly always wore, even with the barest minis. (Some women, usually older ladies given to longer hemlines, held on to gartered hose for quite a long time, even after pantyhose wearing was common; they liked the more precise fit and feel of sized hose, and the lady-ritual of buying them at the department stores.)

    Women simply didn’t go comfortably bare-legged then, some not even with shorts; it was not odd to see a woman in the mid-to-late 1960s wearing tailored Bermuda shorts (lady’s style, zipper on the side!) and hose with her ironed blouse and polished loafers as she shopped at the supermarket. (She probably had a girdle on too. The supermarket was a public appearance, and you wanted to look good for it, even if your casual look required ironing and preparation.)

    In conclusion: Pants back in the 70s gave you dignity and stockingless freedom that skirts never could, and effectively became the uniform of the modern woman! I laugh inwardly today when I see women and girls hanging their butts out in short, short skirts, with those stupid spindly high-heels they pay so much for. No dignity there at all. Worse things can happen to you than high-waisted pants…people might laugh, but they know you’re not hooking! Yay pants!

  • Chance Boudreaux

    I think the full-top braless look back then was sexier than today’s wonder-bra’d and ultra-lifted, ultra-showing cleavage.

  • Darla Black

    Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed reading it.

  • PlasticBiddy

    Great post.

  • mixter102

    I’m old enough that I still get wood from a blond with feathered hair, in tight fitting Jordache jeans. I’d let her wear my track suit top any time.