The Good, the Bad and the Tacky: 20 Fashion Trends of the 1970s

Back in December ’13 we listed out 5 fashion offenses of the decade, but I think it’s time we expanded on the subject a bit.  Fashion of the 1970s could be so outlandish and curious that a mere 5 examples doesn’t do it justice.  This time, let’s take a more comprehensive look, and not focus just on the offenses, but the whole funky enchilada.


1. Shrink Tops

shrink tops

They’re tiny little vests of yarn that serve no purpose other than to cause confusion and, in extreme cases, deep depression.  The thing about these items is that, no matter what else you’re wearing, no one will notice anything but the vest – which can be a good thing when trying to draw attention away from other tacky apparel you’re probably wearing in the 70s.

209_vintage needlework (108)


2. Pop Topping

pop tops

Some madman came up with the idea of creating clothing and accessories from freaking pop tops, published a book on the subject and developed a cult following.  If you’re old enough to remember the 70s, you’ll remember that pop tops littered every square inch of the earth’s land mass.  (For more on this mess, check out this Flashbak article.)  So, I agree, that something needed to be done about this plague of pop tops…. I just don’t know if wearing them was the answer.


3. Terry Cloth Casual Wear


This fabric should be used for towels and bath robes, and there should be no exceptions.  Using this fabric to create a unitard-leisure suit hybrid is, I believe, a felony in most states.


4. Yarn Swimwear


I can understand a homemade bathing suit cover-up; it’s when the bikini itself is made of yarn that I become interested.  There’s several rather obvious problems: (1) wool or cotton is going to absorb the water, get saturated and basically fall off the body, and (2) there’s no way to make the stitching so tight that it won’t have revealing gaps.  All of this can make for an R rated day at the beach…. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the spectators.

For more on this, I highly recommend you check out Sexy Yarn: Bewitching Stitching of the 1970s



5. Pants – Tight Up Top, Flared Below


Slacks in the 1970s basically formed a triangle.  Massively flared at the bottom and as form-fitting as can be from the waist to the upper thigh.  As Robin Williams once said, the pants were so tight you could tell what religion he is.  Yet, as they passed the knee, they became umbrellas.


And as a Part 2 to the women’s slacks issue….


6. High Waistbands


I much prefer a high-waisted pair of pants over the lowriders of today (a muffin top is not a pretty sight).  That being said, the 1970s took it to the extreme with belt buckles basically positioned on the sternum.  Naturally, all this stretching upward of the waistline made camel toes and moose knuckles commonplace…. Which, more often than not, will have you wishing for the muffin top instead.


7. Short Shorts


Women’s short shorts were a welcome sight in the 70s, but with men it was a different story.  Why?  Let’s just say guys have more equipment that needs to be housed.  Thankfully, most men wore tightie-whities in the 70s, so the incidence of over-exposure was rare.  However, 70s dudes were also prone to go commando…. In which case, things could get ugly quick.



8. Leisure Suits

leisure suit

I blame a lot of our 70s fashion derision and mockery on the 1980s mindset.  For some reason, in the 80s, the fashions of the previous decade were absolutely laughed at.  There was nothing funnier than a pair of bell bottoms and platform shoes.  Leisure suits also fell into the category of condescending mockery as well, which continues to this day.  However, when you take a fresh, objective look at the leisure suit, is it really so bad?


9. Ascots

264_vintage needlework (131)

These were a hold-over from the previous decade.  By the mid-70s, there were only two people left wearing them: Mr. Furley on Three’s Company and Fred on Scooby-Doo.  Those that did tie on this dandy neckwear during the 70s are still living with the regret to this day.



10. Striped Tube Socks


It happened somewhere in the mid to late 90s – socks that exceeded ankle length were verboten.  I suppose they’ve been allowed to creep up the calf in the past few years; however, nothing like it used to be.  In the 70s it was “game on” with giant-ass tube socks with bold colors (the ultimate being the rainbow colored  Life-Savers socks).  I well remember the days when I carefully coordinated my tube sock stripes with my shirt/shorts colors.


11. Suspenders


Today, if you see someone wearing a pair of rainbow suspenders, you naturally assume he or she has a mental condition – maybe insane, or just “challenged”.  Not so in the 70s.  It wasn’t just Mork wearing bold suspenders, it was everybody.  Don’t picture the classic business attire suspenders (very popular in the 80s and 90s)- picture them with shorts (!) and as disco attire.


12. Plaid


Fashion is a strange thing – it’s really hard to see things from the perspective of the times, to cast aside current preconceptions.  It’s almost impossible to see how a pair of plaid pants could look good on a human being from our current vantage point. Truly I say unto you, they’re not so bad, if you’re able to look objectively……. plaid suits, however, are a different story.  That’s just taking it too far.


13. White Shoes

white shoes

For men, you had the white loafers which came to be synonymous with used car dealers.  You’ll remember Chevy Chase is gifted a pair by Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Vacation.  There was something about the fashions of the early part of the decade which inspired such condescension by decade’s end (leisure suits, plaid pants, ascots, etc.).

8148141563_5554ba8687_b What many of you may forget is how inappropriately white shoes were worn by women.  I’m talking miniskirts and white shoes.


14. His and Her Gone Wild

013_The JC Penny ZOOM line

Maybe it started with the gender equality movement, maybe it started from lots of recreational drug use… who knows.  One thing’s for sure, never have couples dressed alike more than in the 70s.


15. Granny Panties


Just as women’s pants extended far, far up the abdomen, so did the undergarments. We call them “granny panties” today – back then, we just called them “panties”.


16. Polyester Prints


There was just something about those shiny polyester blend (or rayon) shirts that just begged for some kind of funky design.


17.  Mega-Sandals


Platform sandals, or just clunky mules, it didn’t matter.  Chicks wore “clodhoppers” in the 70s, the taller the better, especially if worn with massive bellbottoms.

18. Gigantic Collars


Perhaps the most stereotypical Seventies trend of them all (except, perhaps, the flared pants) was the gargantuan collars.  One day, I’ll do a post on 70s pimpwear and you’ll see just how wide these collars got.


19. Turtleneck -Blazer Combo

turtle neck

The turtleneck-blazer combo was worn by every guy who fashioned himself a ladies man – and in the Seventies that meant all men.


20. Short Wide Ties

wide ties

We laugh at the ultra-skinny 80s necktie, but I think it was just a reaction to the mega-ties of the 70s.  They barely extended past your sternum, yet they were so wide, they could serve as a tabard.

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