The Seventies Aura
Written by Stella Lizardi
Somewhere between the swan song of the restless ‘60s and the frenzy of disco, fashion revelled in an
extended period of sweet excess. The ‘70s were a time when everything was allowed, with diversity
and plurality bringing about a never-ending party.
Sophisticated yet innocent, slipping into style’s garden of pleasures to live
in the moment, the eternal girl of the ‘70s has been with us ever since.
Tailoring gave way to more fluid and daring lines, and magazines celebrated dazzling women
who seemed both proud and familiar, adorned in furs and gold jewellery, and wrapped in wispy
jerseys, silk easy-on-easy-off maxi dresses and sexy bell-bottom suits. Like Bianca, Lauren, Farrah,
Jane, Talitha… How is it possible for one decade to have given birth to so many indelible images of style?
“In the early ‘70s”, says Beverly Johnson, the first African-American top model to appear on
the cover of US Vogue back in 1974, “the revolutionary delirium of ‘60s fashion, experimentation
and exaggeration had subsided”. An air of indolent sensuality permeated the years from 1967 to
1974, filtering what was dubbed ‘70s style through an unprecedented mix of bohemian lifestyle and
Ossie Clark’s patterns; Yves Saint Laurent’s jumpsuits; Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress;
Halston’s silk gowns; they’re all emblematic of that era, and they’ve all been repeatedly reimagined
and relaunched ever since by modern designers engaged in an endless mash-up of nostalgia.
It’s no wonder that the ‘70s are considered the mother-lode of creativity and style.
G. TURILLAZZI/ CONDE NAST VIA GETTY IMAGES / IDEAL IMAGE
Responsible for bringing Gucci back in the 1990s
with a rock collection inspired by the ‘70s,
Tom Ford was once again on point in 2015,
when he put Bianca Jagger on his own house’s runway
clad in dandy-style velvet suits. Later in the same year,
Alessandro Michele – who had taken the creative reins of Gucci
– followed in Ford’s footsteps by using materials
from the same decade to compose his very own vocabulary
of luxury. The secret of the 1970s’ influence can perhaps
be summarized in the design philosophy of the most iconic
master of the period: Halston. In contrast to the couture outfits
of his French contemporaries, the American designer responded
to his generation’s demand for simpler, “real” clothes, creating
looks that were somehow both discrete and enthralling.
Adorning celebrities on the red carpet and in glossy magazine
spreads, they highlighted every detail of female anatomy
without failing to satisfy the modern requirements of fast living
and unrestricted movement.
ISHIMURO / CONDE NAST VIA GETTY IMAGES / IDEAL IMAGE
After all, why should fashion stop dreaming of a time that embodied
the absence of guilt? How could it not instinctively keep
revisiting the aesthetic stereotypes of a time when people smoked obsessively, made love indiscriminately,
and experimented on all fronts, long before AIDS and lean budgets stood in the way of desire?
Admittedly, contemporary fashion brands are prone to recycling influences.
When they turn to the ‘70s, though, it’s clear that they are looking to grasp the audacious spirit of youth,
the essence of guiltless glam and, more than anything, a soothing sense of familiarity.
“Clothes are only alive when they meet the body”, thought Geoffrey Beene, another designer
working to liberate women from suffocating apparel. Instead, he adopted diagonal seaming joined
with pieces of lace or chiffon, which helped the pattern breath. Sophisticated yet innocent,
slipping into style’s garden of pleasures to live in the moment, the eternal girl of the ‘70s has been with us ever since.
She lives beyond eras, immortalized on Pinterest walls, hidden in a smiling Ali MacGraw
in her suede coat in The Getaway, and channeled by Marisa Berenson when she posed for Vogue in
high-hippie kaftans and rows upon rows of rings.