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1970s fashion in 2019: How to adapt for now

Gail Morgan / 04 April 2019

Vintage expert Kate Beavis talks us through how to adapt the trends of the 1970s to work today.

Joanna Lumley as Purdy

We have been embracing the 1970s in our homes for a while now with strong coloured walls, plush velvet sofas, macramé plant holders and oversized cane peacock chairs, but for 2019, the fashions of the decade are back on trend and in our favourite high street stores.

Add to the mix that the New Avengers is soon to be on our screens on True Entertainment (weekdays at 8pm) again; one of our favourite characters Purdey is sure to influence our style with her iconic page boy haircut, floral dresses and even a leotard or two! But as we have already lived through it, worn the flares, donned the corduroy and embraced all shades of burgundy; we ask ourselves, “Do we really want to do it all over again?”

It is possible to fall back in love with 1970s fashion; with a few simple tweaks you can modernise it for the 21st century and create a look that is right for your age now. The first things to consider are the key core pieces to add to your wardrobe so you can get the look and embrace your inner Purdey without looking like a backing singer from the Bay City Rollers!

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Who remembers their first pair of flares or bell bottoms? They elongated your legs and looked great with a pair of straw wedges and a floppy hat, but most of us shudder at the thought of wearing them now. With celebrities such as Sonny and Cher making them mainstream after their hippy start in the late 1960s, both men and women chose to wear a huge 26 inch wide hemline, usually in denim.  Originating from 19th century sailors, the flared trouser was popular throughout the decade until punk exploded onto the scene in 1977, and we reverted back to a straight or even skinny trouser. We had to wait until the early 1990s for them to become popular again when the likes of The Happy Mondays and Stone Roses wore them.

The best way to wear flares is to choose a wide leg trouser or palazzo pant which naturally flares out from the thigh rather than the knee. Not only is this the more flattering choice, it is also the most wearable, and will look great to the office or on a day out. They can be found with a tailored finish or in a more casual denim; both looks still elongate the legs as flares did, but also work for most body shapes. Ideally choose a high waisted trouser to emphasise your slimmest part, your waist, and to gently flatter your tummy area.

Finish the look with heels, and a blouse tucked in or a fitted top to contrast with the wide leg. My favourites are by The House Of Foxy – flattering and nostalgic at the same time.

High necked blouses

The Victoriana trend was huge in the 1970s, with women wearing high necked blouses and dresses with bibbed fronts and equally high collars. Joanna Lumley’s Purdey loved this look choosing floral blouses with frilled edges along the neckline. These were often made from lace or white cotton and were made popular by brands such as Laura Ashley who loved the prim, yet flouncy look of ruffles, long cuffs and a pussy bow neckline. These are set to be huge for Autumn/Winter 2018 but need to be styled with caution as the high neckline isn’t for everyone.

The easiest way to style them in a flattering way is to undo the top few buttons to create a more relaxed look. Pussy bow blouses can also look quite severe – a good trick is to leave the bow undone and undo the top button, leaving the ties loose, almost like a casual scarf. These then look great with wide leg trousers for a smart or casual look; there are some great blouses on the high street from Zara and Monsoon.

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Jumpsuits and playsuits have been in fashion for a few years now but how about wearing a denim one to embrace your inner Emma Peel? Head to toe denim was huge in the 1970s, even though it was worn in The New Avengers a decade earlier. Many embraced a Western edge with pearlised popper buttons - and this look is fashionable right now! Don’t just stop at jumpsuits as dungarees and boiler suits are also designs to get the 1970s look, but be careful as you don’t want to end up looking like you should be working on a farm.

Choose a structured denim for your 1970s jumpsuit; it keeps its shape, holding you in in all the right places. A dark denim looks smarter; again choose a wide leg shape as the hemline balances out your hips. This look will work into Autumn and Winter by teaming up with some long smart boots and a Victoriana/70s blouse underneath. My favourites are by La Redoute and ASOS.

Looking back to the 1930s

In every decade, especially in times of recession, we look back to the past for inspiration and a sense of nostalgia. In the 1970s, we fondly reminisced to the 1920s through to the early 1940s; in 1971 Life Magazine’s cover declared that “Everybody’s just wild about nostalgia” and featured key ladies from the 1930s as well as the Art Deco style which impacted our homes. Yves St Laurent in 1971 created “Collection 40” – influenced by the 1940s; we started wearing cloche hats after the release of The Great Gatsby in 1974; and even TV shows such as The Waltons took us back to the 1930s. Let’s face it: we can see by our current love of all things retro that we are still influenced by designs from the past.

The key looks from these decades that were embraced in the 1970s are a great way to get the look for someone who isn’t a fan of corduroy. Tea dresses, wide leg trousers (again!), peplums, beach pyjamas, pussy bow necklines and a bias cut all work, and what’s more, they have lasted all this time as they work for all shapes and ages, making women feel amazing - it wasn’t called the Golden Age for Fashion for nothing.

Other key looks from the 1970s that don’t seem to be going anywhere right now are midi and maxi dresses, bohemian folk designs, the colour mustard and even disco sequins for partywear. All have become staples in our wardrobes as we have modernised them with more flattering shapes that work in 2018. However, the most important thing to remember is that fashion should be fun, so whatever your age, your shape or style, choose designs that you love and that make you feel great, even if you did wear it the first time around! Just maybe steer clear of Purdey’s infamous leotards!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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