Fashion and Freedom during the 70s and 80s

Index: abc | def | ghi | jkl | mno | pqr | stu | vwx | yz

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.


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

More History of Design

  • “International Style” Architecture of the Modern Movement

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Esplanade Apartments and Lake Shore Drive Apartments

    Alfred H. Barr Jr. coined the term in 1931 in conjunction with Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s 1932 “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” (along with the accompanying book International Style: Architecture Since 1922) at the New York Museum of Modern Art, where Barr was director.Read More →

  • What was the Society of Industrial Artists in Britain?

    Society of Industrial Arts Magazine Cover

    The origins of the CSD lay in the creation in 1930 of the Society of Industrial Artists (SIA) in Britain, when the public debate was concerned with the nature and definition of both the designer and the design profession. Read More →

  • British Studio Ceramics a Short History

    British Studio Pottery featured image

    In Britain, the backlash against the highly ornamented machine-made ceramics that were fashionable in the late 1800s gathered steam. Art potteries were founded by a group of creative craftspeople who William Morris inspired.Read More →

  • Fashion and Freedom during the 70s and 80s

    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.Read More →

  • Olivetti Design Standard-bearer

    Olivetti Lexikon

    Olivetti is an Italian office machinery and furniture firm, located in Ivrea, Northern Italy. ForRead More →

  • Mid-Century Modernism – Fresh Optimism in Design

    Mid-Century Modernism - Featured Image

    Designers were motivated by a fresh optimism after WWII and the new materials, production techniques, and colours arriving in unique shapes. In more inexpensive and easily mass-produced designs, a more relaxed, fleshed-out style of Modernism began to develop.Read More →

  • Gothenburg, Sweden Exhibition (1923)

    Gothenburg 1923 Exhibition Reconstruction

    The Gothenburg Tercentennial Jubilee Exhibition (Swedish Jubileumsutst√§llningen I G√∂teborg) was a world fair held in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1923, marking the 300th anniversary of the city’s establishment. The fair, which opened on 8 May, lasted until 30 September.Read More →

  • Neue Sachlichkeit – Design Term

    Neue Sachlichkeit - Design Term

    Neue Sachlichkeit was a term coined in 1923 by Gustav Hartlaub, director of the Kunsthalle, Mannheim, as the title of an exhibition he organised to demonstrate the progress of post-war painting in Germany.Read More →

  • Design History – 40s & 50s the age of the Graphic Designer

    40s and 50s Graphic Design

    The 1940s and 1950s the age of the Graphic Designer. Designers, illustrators, and artists used their talents to disseminate information.Read More →

  • Architecture the 1920s & 1930s – the birth of Modernism

    Bauhaus featured image

    Architecture the 1920s & 1930s – the birth of Modernism. The architects of the post-World War 1 years aimed for simplicity above all else.Read More →

  • Fashion Design from 1900 to 1920 – Focus on Freedom

    ul Poiret Selection Met Museum

    Fashion Design from 1900 to 1920 – Focus on Freedom. Newfound political independence came newfound fashion freedom. READ MORERead More →

  • Mission Furniture – Design Dictionary Term

    Armchair, 1907 - 1913 designed by Gustav Stickley

    Mission Furniture – Design Dictionary Term. The early twentieth-century American furniture design style. American Arts and CraftsRead More →

  • Anchor Blocks – 19th Century construction toy

    Anchor Blocks

    Anchor Blocks were a German system of building blocks that were popular as a children’s construction toy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, notably in Europe. Dr F. Ad. Richter in Rudolstadt, Germany, began developing and manufacturing the system in 1879. The concept was based on the FROEBEL block system, which significantly impacted Frank Lloyd WRIGHT’s design philosophy.Read More →

  • Jugendstil an artistic style

    Jugendstil an artistic style

    Jugendstil, an artistic style that originated around the mid-1890s in Germany and persisted throughout the first decade of the 20th century. READ MORRead More →

  • Neon Lighting – Dictionary – Design Term

    Neon Lighting Dictionary term

    Neon Lighting. Semiflexible, hollow tubes of clear acrylic with small bulbs inside that can be connected to light up all at once or sequentially to produce a “chasing” effect. It’s also known as disco lighting, and it’s given homeowners new illumination alternatives. Lights designers consider neon lighting to be an art form.Read More →

  • Arabesque form of artistic decoration


    The¬†arabesque¬†is a form of artistic decoration consisting of “surface decorations based on rhythmic linear patterns of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils” or simple lines, often combined with other elements.Read More →

  • Aestheticism 19th-century art movement

    Aestheticism Featured Image

    Aestheticism describes the European art movement of the late 19th century. It is centred on the doctrine that art exists alone for the sake of its beauty and that it does not have to serve any political, didactic or another purpose. Aestheticism is diametrically opposite to the moralist belief, the belief that moralism (and everything else) should be the handmaiden of art instead of art (and everything else) being the handmaiden of morality.Read More →

  • Humble history of the pencil

    An image of a pencil.

    I am feeling nostalgic for the humble pencil.¬† There is a comfort and warm familiarity whenever I pick one up (rarely these days).¬† Pencils are inexpensive, portable, simple to operate and the marks that they make are easy to erase.¬† Unlike other writing tools, they do not run out of ink or skip.Read More →

  • The Chevron pattern – a Popular motif for Designers

    Chevron Pattern

    The word chevron comes from the French word chevron, which means rafter or gable. Although there is no definition to prevent freedom in its shape, the chevron’s angle is most commonly between 60 and 70 degrees.¬†Read More →

  • Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

    The third and present Goldsmiths' Hall in the second half of the 19th century

    Medieval guild for Goldsmith Trade The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, also known as the Goldsmiths’ Company, is one of London’s Great Twelve Livery Companies. It is correctly known as The Wardens and Commonalty of the Mystery of Goldsmiths of the City of London. The Company’s headquarters are located in the City of London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall. Read More →

Index: abc | def | ghi | jkl | mno | pqr | stu | vwx | yz

‚̧ԳŹ Receive our newsletter

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.