Pages of Polyester: The Sears 1974 Catalog

FROM the women’s fashion section of the 1974 Fall-Winter Sears Catalog, here are 35 pages of earth-toned acrylics, skin-tight polyester, and knitted creations that should have never seen the light of day.  Seventies fashions are fun to behold because they could be so frighteningly terrible; however, if you can resist the easy temptation to scoff at 70s styles and view them with an open mind, some are actually quite brilliant.  Today’s everyday styles can be so tired and unremarkable – it’s refreshing to see something bold and unique.  Come take a look….


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A black and orange striped sweater-vest over a tight olive green turtleneck sweater…. can somebody explain how this happened?  The simple answer is widespread recreational drug use, but I’m open to other theories.

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This was the last year of the miniskirt’s heyday in America.  Like its hemline, its longevity was too short.


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I believe that is future Charlie’s Angels star, Shelly Hack in the red miniskirt.   She appeared in tons of catalogs before big break on the Boob Tube.


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The winner for most uncomfortable and awkward pose goes to the lady on the right.


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The text reads “Just say ‘Charge it’ when you phone your order”.  And so it begins.  The Diner’s Club card had been around a while, but putting your beet-red A-line skirt on credit, was a relatively new luxury.  The genie was officially out of the ’74.


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“Today, there is no fashion, really. There are just . . . choices. Women dress today to reveal their personalities. They used to reveal the designer’s personality. Until the 70s, women listened to designers. Now women want to do it their own way. There are no boundaries. And without boundaries, there is no fashion.”
– Oscar de la Renta (2002)

It’s easy to mock the Seventies look – but at least it had a look.


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It’s hard to pin down the collective tastes of a planet for an entire decade. It’s easy to say the 70s were all about browns and earth tones, but that’s not completely accurate. Sure, the entire country seemed awash in shades of brown for a few years in the 70s; however, the decade also had its share of super loud color expressions.

The “browning of the 70s” was really a reaction to the psychedelic color palette of the late 60s. We’d had enough of The Magical Mystery Tour; now it was time for some marijuana infused color schemes of brown, light brown, dark brown, red-brown, or orange-brown. Accent it with some Harvest Yellow, Avocado Green or Burnt Orange, and you’re in business!

But, to complicate things, there was still a tendency to go really wild with colors. Often combing colors that should’ve never been combined – namely red and yellow….. or orange and (you guessed it) brown.


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The zodiac thing was out of control in the Seventies.  I’m not sure why society latched onto astrology so heavily during this decade – I’ll leave that to you armchair sociologists to discuss amongst yourselves. 


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Notice how everyone back then was THIN? Thanks corn syrup.


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Say what you like, but no one in the 70s could be accused of being “fashion constipated”.  All sorts of crazy shit was worn by average folks; whereas, now casual America looks sort of meh…..


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The chevron symbols pointing at the foreground lady’s breasts, brings something to mind that you may not have noticed.  Catalog models of today are without exception stacked; whereas, these ’74 gals have very average sized breasts.   At what point did society decide that all models must have generous sized boobs?  Maybe the Spring of ’97?


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As this poor woman in peach is demonstrating, the windblown look doesn’t work when you use an entire can of Aqua Net.


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A clear case of prop misuse – the rustic fence post doesn’t seem to go with these fashions.  Are they trying demonstrate that acrylic is splinter resistant?


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Fashion Lesson of the Day: The Fashion Triangle
This is the concept of fashion shape between the 70s and 80s. In the 70s, you had wider clothes at the bottom of the body (i.e. flares) and the narrow clothes at the top. In the 1980s, the triangle reversed its self… skinny jeans and shoulder padding coupled with larger hair. Nowadays, the triangle can be worn in any direction and called ‘trendy’.


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Back then, nearly all the women’s slacks had the zipper on the side.  Thus, when you had high-waisted trousers, you often wound up with what can only be called “giant pelvic panels.” 


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Does anyone recall Garanimals children’s clothing?  If you do, then you’ll agree that this looks uncomfortably like Garanimals for adults.


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There was a tendency in the 1970s to dress like your curtains and upholstery.  It was not uncommon to match your sofa and drapes back in ’74.


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This is what I love about the Seventies – no one seemed too worried about being low key. It’s not as if we were color blind, we knew we were blowing your mind with a palette straight from the bloody bowels of hell. Giant collars, flared pants, grandma shoes, and all in berry and camel tan (?)…. literally, a cavalcade of bad. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve got to admire the chutzpa.


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Ladies of 1974 seemed to be in a perpetual state of mismatch.


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The woman on the right…. she’s coming on a little strong, don’t you think?  Is this really a good time to be making your moves? The lady on the left seems a bit unhappy with the unfolding romance.  The real question is whether the advances are unwanted – I can’t tell if the chick in the center is playing it off or genuinely pleased with the flirtation.  Thoughts?


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Were they so pleased with the pleated back that they felt the need to give its own picture insert?   Any guesses what the lady on the left has in that pocket?  I’m guessing it’s something to take the edge off a long day of catalog modelling.


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And so ends our journey through 1974.  Not to worry – there may be many more catalog journeys in the days to come.  Until then.

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