Fashion and Freedom during the 70s and 80s

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Marc Bolan 1970s
Marc Bolan 1970s

The 1970s and 1980s were a decade of extremes in fashion. In other creative sectors, as people pushed the boundaries of freedom of speech, styles altered regularly.

Going to Extremes

Anti-war demonstrators in the 1970s insulted the military by donning surplus army uniforms. At the same time, organisations like The Village People questioned masculinity stereotypes by dressing up as police officers and construction workers in macho outfits. Others retreated into illusory splendour or nostalgia in response to mounting unemployment and social inequity. Glam rockers like Marc Bolan set some of the most absurd trends: hair became longer, platform boots got higher, and flared trousers got even wider.

Textile production technology advancements

Lycra is a brand of synthetic elastic fibre created by the Du Pont corporation in 1958. To increase its stretch and strength, as well as the way it feels and hangs. Lycra is always blended with a different fibre. Covering it with other fibre, twisting it with other fibre as it is spun, or driving it through an air-jet with the other fibre, coating it with a lacework of strands are some of the options.

Lycra fashions
Lycra fashions

Punks and Disco Babes

In the 1970s, synthetic textiles like elastic lycra came into their own when the fitness craze took hold and discomfiture set in. The anti-fashion brigade, the punks, with their shredded clothing and safety pin jewellery, were on the other end of the spectrum.

Culture Club fashion 80s
Culture Club fashion 80s

When the East meets the West

In contrast to the muscular, passed-shouldered power suits worn by yuppie businesswomen, the frilly shirts of the new romantics indicated a shift towards the nostalgia of retro trends in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto were redefining fitted clothing by layering and draping textiles to create sculptural works of art.

Sources

Gaff, J., & Tyrrell, J. (1999). The high-tech age: 70s and 80s. David West Children’s Books.

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