Whatever your age, it will not have escaped your notice that the 70s are back this season. The AW15 catwalks at Burberry Prorsum, Gucci and Chloé were awash with earthy off-colour flares, thick, textured fabrics and that familiar, overly patterned look, while homages are beginning to flood the high street, too.
It’s not the first time the 70s have made a comeback in fashion, but – as someone who has witnessed her fiftysomething summer roll by – it feels strange to see wide lapels and polo necks back on the high street. After all, we remember them well from the first time, when we were probably the most fashionably attuned we’ve ever been in our whole lives.
In the 70s, I was a round-faced teen with a dark-brown pageboy and something close to an obsession for putting together A Look. Right now, Gucci is referencing Margot Tenenbaum, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character from Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums; back then my style muses were Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris, Carly Simon around the time of You’re So Vain, Lauren Hutton and Shelley Hack, the model for Charlie perfume. Quite a diverse quartet, but then the 70s is, in reality, a bit of a mishmash. As American designer Betsy Johnson told the New York Times earlier this year, “Stylistically, it was a free-for-all.”
Of the great number of key items to which I aspired, here’s what I had and where it hailed from: the bell-sleeve T-shirts and floppy felt hat (hippy market stall), the suede boots (high street), the tight-cut crushed velvet jacket (shared with my Mum), the Fair Isle vest (charity shop), the maxi-length handkerchief-bottom patchwork silk skirt (Singer-sewed it myself) and the Missoni multi-coloured knit top (a treat from Mum). I left some of the other key 1970s pieces to leaner teens than myself. For example, the cotton knit tight shirt worn with no bra and very few buttons done up, the high-rise flared jeans and the hot pants (no thigh-covering opaque tights with them in those days).
So which, if any, of these seminal 70s items could be safely resurrected for women of our age today? It rather depends on your level of chutzpah and whether they still suit you. For example, a leggy friend of mine has never really stopped referencing the women’s lib/Charlie Girl look in her jacket and trouser mixes. She can add a tasselled silk scarf and she’s cool for winter.
Jackets in the 70s were terrific – tight, but flattering (if you could get your arms into one, that is). It’s definitely worth looking around for one – maybe suede, probably brown (a catch-all colour from the decade). Experiment with flares, though these days I prefer pairs with a bit more give than those I favoured in the past. Silky shirts are always good, but not too roomy is the 70s vibe – and wear with a prominent pendant rather than delicate jewellery. Try to push good taste to the side a little – the 70s didn’t rate such things.
The hippy side of the 70s was a particular draw for me then, but now I don’t feel right wearing anything that feels too fussy or frilly or consciously “bohemian”. All things must pass. It’s much more stylish to stick with the American sportswear side of the decade: polo necks, a bit of camel, boots, suede bag. Throw in some geometric patterns or wild swirls and you’ll feel you’re passing fashion muster without literally walking down your own Memory Lane.