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Womens 1970s vintage dresses

September 28, 2015

womens 1970s vintage dresses come in several styles but one of the most instantly recognisable is the long printed dress in swishy fabric.

Zandra Rhodes’ inspiration for womens 1970s vintage dresses

This was a popular look for several reasons. Foreign travel was becoming popular and affordable by the Seventies, so for the first time many people went not only to places like Spain for their holidays but far-flung destinations like India.There they saw new colours, prints and fabrics and new ways of wearing clothes in the long skirts traditionally worn in some parts of the country.


India was also seen as a place of great spirituality and wisdom, and many Westerners took up yoga and started to follow the teachings of certain Indian gurus. Wearing Indian style clothes showed that you were a bit different from the herd, a bit wiser and more exotic. Many dresses were imported from India, and designers produced their own version of the trend: Zandra Rhodes and Bill Gibb focussed on intricate prints, quilting and ethnic style tapestry.

womens 1970s vintage dresses in natural fibres

As well as this, long skirts were a natural reaction in womens 1970s vintage dresses against the miniskirt which had been everywhere a few years before. The mini skirt and mini dress was usually cut in a strong, geometric style, like an A line, so the swishy, soft fabrics most long dresses were made in was a contrast. And they were often made in natural fibres, again as a reaction to the synthetic fabrics which had become the norm in a lot of clothing in the Sixties.


This was usually cotton, but silk was popular for a more glamorous version. British designer Ossie Clarke in particular made romantic, soft and airy womens 1970s vintage dresses: lavish designs that flattered the female form and that were inspired by stars of the golden age of silver screen in the 30s and 40s. Many of his designs were made in a matt moss crepe silk that had perfect qualities of stretch and drape. His wife, Celia Birtwell, designed prints for the dresses. Italian designer Emilio Pucci also worked in silk, making bright and bold gowns that also floated and flowed but the result was more wonderfully brash than romantic

Laura Ashley womens 1970s vintage dresses

There was also a different kind of romanticism in the wearing of long dresses. Ideas in the Sixties looked towards the Space Age and the future, and designers like Laura Ashley, and Barbara Hulanicki for Biba who made dresses with an Edwardian silhouette, all leg’o’mutton sleeves and high collars, with tight waists and flowing skirts, tapped into a nostalgia for the past. With these dresses, you could be a rosy cheeky milkmaid or any Thomas Hardy heroine of your choosing.


These designers were savvily following a trend, not inventing one. Shoppers around this era thronged to second-hand shops and came out eclectically dressed in everything the past had to offer, including military uniforms, old fur coats and Victorian and Edwardian dresses, skirts and petticoats. Designers made the most of the mood.

Footwear to go with womens 1970s vintage dresses

A true hippy who was trying to live as naturally as possible would wear these dresses with no underwear and no shoes, but for those who were more conventional wedges and platform sandals and shoes were worn.


Read more about 1970s fashion



A 1970s Zandra Rhodes gown.
Marissa Berenson modelling a Celia & Ossie Clark design
Ossie Clarke 1973
Wonderful Pucci dress 1970
Pucci 1970
A display of 1970s Laura Ashley dresses in Bath Museum, 2013
Photo by Alfa Castaldi,1970

Photo by Irving Penn, 1970