1976, young women in casual wear

The 1970s


The 1970s saw an explosion of men’s fashion.  The introduction of artificial fabrics such as Crimplene, Acrylic or Terylene, meant that clothes could be lighter-weight, more elastic and as a result either more fitted or more flowing.

After decades of sober colours and sensible tailoring, the flamboyant looks ofCarnaby Streetfiltered into the mainstream.  The ‘Kays Club 70’ (1970) and ‘Young Blades’ (1974) ranges included luridly patterned, frilled shirts that transformed men into broad-chested peacocks.  Men’s shoes became art, on a par with the elaborate ‘brothel-creepers’ of the 1950s catalogues.

1976, young men in suit and casual office work wearBusiness wear also offered men more choice.  Young office workers could choose the Italian-cut pairing of slim trousers and narrow-lapelled jackets with a low break that showed off the styling of the shirt.  Or they could opt for the double-breasted, wide-lapelled look modelled by Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971).

Throughout the 1970s, male models emulated the rugged looks of Steve McQueen or James Coburn, whilst young female models pose against them almost as props.

Indeed, for a decade that saw the rise of feminism and made wearing a bra a political act in some quarters, the emphasis on wearing corsetry to ensure a ‘slender line’ still does not go away. As styles for both genders became ever more fitted, the use of a girdle (for women) or a ‘back support’ (for men) was the only way to wear those high-waisted, flared trousers.

Click here for a poem about the fashions of the 1970s, created by Brendan Hawthorne and members of Worcestershire Association of Carers.

1970s from Jonathan Lee on Vimeo.

Film of a 1970s fashion show produced by Second Hand Rose for our Heritage Open Day event at the Commandery, Worcester, on 10 September 2011