The Fashion of the 70s and beyond
Fashion relaxed a bit in 1972, worrying less about hemlines and waistlines, shifting into the casual mood of sportswear for both daytime and evening styles.
According to designers, the busy modern woman wanted to look at ease, uncontrived, and certainly never obvious after years of self-consciousness. An important aspect of being fashionable in 1972 was not to look as if one had spent either too much time or money on clothes.
The sweater was a pivotal point of this effortless effect. It was the year’s most important fashion ingredient, cropping up as a beach cover-up, the basis of city costumes, the bodice of haute-couture satin evening gowns.
After sweaters, a woman could choose between long or short dresses, skirts or pants, belted waists or no waists, bare halters or covered-up caftans. Such designers as Yves Saint Laurent showed most of their daytime styles at mid-knee level, but they included several mid-calf and ankle-length skirts.
Liza Minnelli wearing Halston (1972)
Female delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Miami illustrated the variety of attire available to the American woman. They turned up in everything from ﬂoor-length dresses to faded blue jeans. Critics blamed designers for failing to provide fashion direction. Actually, the wide range of choices represented the cost-conscious consumer’s triumph over the couturier.
The most successful designer of 1972 was Halston. His clothes, whisked up by such fashion leaders as Liza Minnelli and Jackie O, were elegant versions of established American classics — shirtwaist dresses, cashmere pullovers and cardigans, wrapped jackets and pants. So big was the inﬂuence of the unstudied, sportive American shapes on what women around the world wore in 1972, that experts claimed New York City, rather than Paris, was the fashion capital of the world.
The ease-is-of-the-essence fashion philosophy affected the way a garment met the body. After a decade of drawing clothes closer to the ﬁgure, designers began to let go. Snug-bodiced fashions were rivaled by a revival of the chemise, the blouson, caftans, smocks, tents, toppers, battle jackets, and baggier sweaters.
Elasticized and drawstring waistlines, shirred yokes, deeper armholes, and dolman, raglan, and kimono sleeves helped ease silhouettes.
Jeans were very much in style in 1972 for both men and women.
Textures softened into cashmere, shetland, angora, lambswool, mohair, brushed-wool plaids, cuddly, lamblike acrylic piles, fluffy, long-haired furs.
Hushed hues and pastels served as further softening agents. Mauve, peach, apple-green, pink, yellow, and baby-blue tended to be used in all-of-a-tone costumes, such as a pink-shirt with a pink-striped sweater over a pink plaid skirt.
Natural and neutral shades of white, wheat, camel, and gray melted into one another in luxurious fabrics or connected sporty separates of nonchalance.
Accessories underlined the monotone scheme. Among the favorites were tortoise, ivory, amber, pewter, silver, braided-leather cubes, buttons strung together, whale and tiger teeth. But pearls were the most popular embellishment for ears, necklines, and wrists.
Brimmed cloche hats replaced knitted caps, little ﬂat envelopes tried to oust the ever-present shoulder bags. Clogs, wedgies, cork-soled platforms, and chunky, high heels continued to alarm podiatrists. There was a tendency toward shorter hair styles for both men and women.
Men’s Fashions were dominated by the gentlemanly ideal, as the wild prints and fancy sartorial treatments of recent years gave way to traditionally masculine materials and shapes. Bold plaids livened up sport jackets; rich, modulated tones in houndstooth checks, Donegal tweeds, and Prince-of-Wales plaids were used for business suits. Summer-weights revived such favorites as crinkly seersucker, khaki, and all-white Mark Twain-type “ice cream suits.”
Other comebacks: beefy sweaters with more texture in shetland, mohair, Norwegian-type knit; and hefty woolens cut into stalwart stormcoats, battle jackets, peacoats, and lumberjack shirts. The buttoned-down shirt returned in 1972 with a more generously proportioned collar.
Ties turned to smaller, timeless motifs: stirrups, anchors, paisleys. The two-button, waist-and-shoulder-expressed construction reigned for jackets, but there was a drift back to pleated pants and boxy, raglan-sleeved coats with just-below-the-knee hems.
Men’s footwear became more ﬂamboyant. Men wore shoes with wild colors as thick platforms and 3-inch heels became popular with young and old alike.