How to Do 70's Fashion in a Modern Way: Spring Fashion Re-Boot

It’s March – Spring, Hurrah!! (ok not quite yet technically…but I saw crocuses today, and indulged in some tulips for the house yesterday, because winter, I’m bored of your grey dullness!

Anyway I can't help but start thinking about Spring fashion. This year it seems to be a lot about the 70’s, which I loooove, but can also appreciate might freak a lot of people out…I mean, clogs, fringe, floppy hats, faux fur, suede, all at once as it’s often thrown together in the fashion magazines, can feel a bit overwhelming and more fancy dress retro nightmare than chic fashion statement if you’re not careful.  

I think when we think about the 70’s in fashion terms it’s easy to overlook the sheer diversity that the decade offered. Bright, garish prints and flares (that’s what British people call bell bottoms my American friends!) are all well and good, but there was also Annie Hall’s fresh take on androgyny, Debbie Harry’s pretty punk and Stevie Nick’s glam gypsy. Not to mention the jaw dropping creations of Halston, the Jackie O preppy island hippy, Studio 54 and a multitude of other influences. There’s been a slightly unfortunate “Woodstock effect” in how the 70’s have come to be represented in culture and often fashion. A sort of fashion filtering of everything into feathers and  daisy chain headgear and fringe at Coachella has understandably led to the decade feeling maybe a bit ho hum hippie-ish for some.

A look inside my own closet reveals I do have an innate gravity towards many things that slot in under the 70’s category. Folkloric embroidery, tribal prints,chunky jewellery, gold, denim on denim, smock peasant blouses galore, it seems being born smack in middle of the decade has imprinted upon me in some nascent way.

I do feel much more at home in a smock top and faded denim than skinny jeans and tailoring, but I appreciate this look is not for everyone.  I think style cues can just as easily be taken from some maybe less obvious looks of  many 70’s icons. Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton, whose signature tie and vest with derby hat look is what many associate her with, actually wears numerous elements of the decade in the film. She sports everything from cargo pants to boiler suits to floaty smock dresses, eventually looking like a chic 70’s glamazon when she departs NY for pastures new in California.

I really like the look of this jumpsuit from River Island, it's kind of a cross between utilitarian and dressy I think and would be a great "go anywhere" sort of piece. Even though the "How do I go to the loo?!" element is always there, this one actually tempts me to suffer for fashion!

Stevie Nicks is maybe slightly more obvious a representative of the decade, but for a night-time glam look her gypsy Goth goddess is a fun style to take inspiration from. All wispy curls and glowing skin, Stevie’s California rock chick look is not difficult to emulate - take a sheer or other floaty black blouse, pair with a long skirt or dark denim, and you’re half way there. Lots of layers to swish around and some smudgy eyeliner and lip gloss if you want to really go for it!

I could look at pictures of 70’s Debbie Harry all day long. She didn’t conform to the mould of the era much at all really, coming up in CBGB’s prime punk era she managed to look feminine and edgy all at once, underscoring her insane beauty with garish disco makeup and 50’s pinup sweaters or mini dresses. She really was her own entity, and I think she is eternally fabulous.

The unbeatable disco elegance of Halston is maybe harder to recreate on the high street, but it’s worth looking to for inspiration to help shake us out of jeans and a top tedium (by us I mean I ;-). A bit of shimmying lame or sequins if you dare always add instant glamour, or a simple, beautifully cut black dress or jumpsuit  are versatile pieces to play with in anyone’s wardrobe.

For the more daring there is the temptation of glam rock, but channeling David Bowie or Bryan Ferry is only for the very brave - still, a great excuse to watch Velvet Goldmine! A flash of bold colour on the face, some leather, be as glam as you dare! I think this is the way to go if you are loathe to give up your biker boots and skinny denim, no one said the 70's had to be one thing.

As for 70’s staples we might already have in our wardrobes, here are a few things worth dusting off:

Tops: Anything folkloric, embroidered, detailed, lace, tunic or smock-y. Prints: As bold as you dare!

Skirts: Midi or knee length denim seems back with a vengeance, I still have a couple kicking around the back of my closet. Suede is apparently all the rage, but living in the rainiest land on earth I’m not about to risk that expensive disaster personally! Also maxi skirts but beware of going too far backwards into boho.

Dresses: I'm seeing a lot of very loud mini dresses around, which is fine if that's your bag, but they're not the most wearable element of the trend. I'm currently more drawn to softly pretty prairie print dresses that channel 70's Emmylou Harris like this little M&S number:

Shoes: Potentially the trickiest aspect of all things 70’s, mules and clogs are not exactly the most adorable hoof wear. I have found a couple of cute/not too clumpy options at M&S and also on my handy 70's blog inspired board!

Brown leather sandals or wedges or ankle boots would also give something a more 70’s vibe. I do think moccasins are adorable but I’d keep the rest of the look simple.

Jeans: Ok while I’m no fan of the skinny jean, flares can be just as tricky to pull off without looking costume-y or having the legs of a gazelle. Personally I’m more inclined to stick with a bootcut, in a faded denim for day and perhaps a darker wash for night.

Trousers: What a minefield. Culottes are everywhere again. Sorry but I do think they are the devil, unless done by Halston. I do love the very glam Bianca Jagger/Lauren Hutton 70’s wide leg trouser. It’s maybe not for everyone but it’s something I can get on board with.

Accessories: Bags, I picture slouchy totes but there seem to be a lot of satchels around. Anything brown leather, fringed obviously, or not too structured looking would work.This red leather one from Joy feels pretty groovy/of the era, plus I’m seeing red leather jackets in nearly every A/W campaign so also a nod to upcoming season if you're one of those crazy fashion forward types! ;-) As for belts, you can go leather, embroidered, or more metallic disco (of which I have none sorry!)

Sunglasses: Big, round, pale-ish colours. NO BLACK! Gold detailing. Maybe an aviator. It’s one of my favourite elements of the decade in truth. I bought a pair of rather 70’s looking sunglasses last year and love them.

Personally I’m over the bib/statement necklace, though they are still everywhere. Long, chunky pendants are more 70's to me/my style anyway, and I think of lots of bangles and dangly gold stuff when I think of the 70’s...that’s maybe more disco though. There is also the flip side of silver and turquoise if you’re more into channeling 70’s Cher (never a bad thing!). As is obvious I'm quite into ethnic/folky stuff, which is only encouraged by my Mom's handmade creations like this Capricorn necklace she made for me (pictured on the right). Yes, my Mother lived in San Francisco in '69...I never really stood a chance of escaping hippie fashion did I!

Hats: Ok Let’s be honest. Floppy hats and fedoras have been around for a while now, and many of us have a couple lurking in our wardrobes. When I was younger I was much more into hats, but I do think they create an instant “look at me!” vibe, unless you live somewhere fabulous and fashion crazy I think they can be a little bit hard to pull off. But you know, it’s all relative. I do love a good hat, they just demand to be worn with conviction, and I think they should be treated as Liz Taylor treated jewelry, i.e. “Always take one thing off.”  I think less is more probably applies. I wouldn’t go as whole hog as this personally, but it’s just my own taste. A hat with maybe a denim shirt-dress or very plain outfit would be more my speed (though honestly I’m more into a headscarf at this stage, which is a whole other kettle of fashion fish!).

Ok well I hope my ramblings have given an insight into my Pinterest obsessed fashion brain and hopefully I provided a few cues for anyone interested in approaching a decade that can seem a bit scary on the sartorial surface. I think there are so many wearable elements that we might not immediately think of as “70’s” to experiment with - personally I’m glad to see the back of crop tops and skin tight everything. I think the “decade that fashion forgot” actually has plenty of hidden treasures once you take a closer look.

Films to watch for 70's fashion inspiration!:

Annie Hall
The Last Days of Disco
Saturday Night Fever
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (I know it's a period piece but Katherine Ross makes everything 70's fabulous, including...)
The Stepford Wives (original)
Velvet Goldmine


  1. Like you, I have a love hate thing with the seventies as it's when I grew up. Love corduroy, burgandy, olive green, purple, polo necks, stripes, sandals. Not sure I'd wear again; dungarees, brown, orange, flares, sheepskin, suede, fringing. I like the m&s dress though. And Debbie Harry is always fabulous.

    1. I do really love the colours of the era! Especially for home decor weirdly! I think the overemphasis on fringing and suede in all of the spring magazine 70's spreads will put off many people as well, there are fresher ways to attempt it (I think?!).

  2. I had to comment! Stevie Nicks, Emylou Harris, Debbie Harry. Three of my all time favourites. Lovin that jumpsuit too
    Laurie x

    1. Thanks for reading, they are all great fashion icons I think too! :-)

  3. Time to shop!! Guess who?