How to Date Vintage Clothing: the 1970s

As in every decade, the fashions of the 1970s were influenced by the social and political issues of the era.  During the early 70s, fashion reflected the anti-war, pro-peace mentality that had begun toward the end of the 60s, and flourished as the hippie look became more mainstream.

(photo via LA Times)

1970s Style Overview

The 1970s saw a variety of fashion styles, but the most easily recognizable were the hippie style and the disco/glam music-inspired fashions.  Hippies were inspired by the political goings-on of the era, and their clothing was free flowing and colourful to represent an anti-war, peaceful and loving state of mind.  On the flip side, there was the disco movement, which was all about tight fitting, shiny and sparkly clothing.

(Donna Summer in a variety of amazing disco outfits, via What the Frock?)

Sportswear grew drastically in popularity during this time for both men and women.  Two piece suits, or leisure suits, consisting of matching tops and bottoms were very popular, as were one-piece jumpsuits.

1970s Silhouettes

This was the era of the bellbottom pant.  In no other decade has the bellbottom been as popular as it was during the 1970s. Both men and women sported this look.  Toward the end of the decade, the shape of these pants started to become more narrow, eventually  becoming more straight legged than flared.

(Bell bottom pants and a women’s pantsuit, via Miss Chloe Young)

Maxi dresses were all the rage and could be seen ranging from slim-fitting to wide and flowy.  Dress styles ranged from lacy and ruffled peasant looks to form-fitting sleek silhouettes. Loose fitting kaftans and muumuus were also very popular.

(A selection of 70s maxi dresses, via Sammy D Vintage)

Some fashionable sleeve shapes for women’s wear were bell, angel, puffed, bishop, flutter, and leg-o-mutton.

(1970s dress with angel sleeves, via LaBelleVintage)

Fashion in the 1970s featured a variety of collar styles for both men and women.  The most common was probably the elongated pointed collar on dress shirts, known as a Barrymore and/or Poet Collar.  This was a regular collar, but the pointed ends tended to be elongated.  Oversized collars in general were all the rage in the 70s.

(70s pointed collar lapels, via Vintage Patterns Wiki)

Some other collar types that were fashionable at the time were Peter Pan, collars with long ties attached that could be tied into a bow (known as a Pussy Bow), and Mandarin.  It is common to see collars decorated with ruffles in 70s fashion.


(A variety of women’s collars, via Sewing Happy Place)

Hemlines for skirts and dresses ranged in length from mini to maxi during the 1970s; a concept that had never been seen before.  Until then, each decade tended to have one uniform fashionable hemline length. Another huge fashion”line” during this time was the empire waistline.  This waistline emphasized the length of a maxi dress and created a long, lean silhouette.

(Empire waist dress, via eStitches on Etsy)


By the 70s, plastic nylon zippers had replaced the metal zippers of the past.  In almost all commercial garments from this time, plastic zippers were used.  Zippered closures were positioned in the center back of garments, as opposed to the side.

Seam Finishing and Fabric

Machine serged edges in the seam allowances of garments became commonplace during this time period.

(An example of what machine serged edges look like, via Dixie DIY)

As with the 60s, synthetic fabrics were all the rage during the 70s.  Blended fabrics became more common during this time, often using different percentages of cotton and polyester blended together.  And of course, polyester fabric in general was widely used, and the use of lycra became commonplace (especially in the disco-inspired fashions of the day.)

Tie dying fabric and clothing was another 70s phenomenon. This was a method that people could do at home to customize their own garments, which helped greatly with its popularity.

(Rit dye advertisement, via Found in Mom’s Basement)

Popular fabric prints of the day were plaid, floral, polka-dot, and even prints made to look like quilting!

(70s plaid Gucci raincoat, via Ruby Lane)

In women’s wear, crochet material was very fashionable.  It could be seen as a detail or trim on a garment, or the entire garment itself.

(Crochet dress, via Cemetarian)

Denim was another hugely popular material for all areas of fashion.  It was highly fashionable to wear denim with cut or fraying edges, or to have it look well worn-in.


(70s denim, via Clinton Charlie)


Check back later next week, when we will feature fashion of the 1980s and how to identify garments from the era!

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