This Season's Biggest '70s Trends — & How To Pull Them Off

Photographed by Kathy Lo.
Tory Burch Ribbed Cotton Polo, $169, available at Tory Burch; MiH Bodycon Marrakesh, $255, available at MiH; Komono Coco Sunglasses, $50.14, available at Komono.

Swooping bellbottoms, tightly-fit tops, psychedelic prints — everywhere we look, 1970s style is back in heavy rotation. We’re certainly not complaining — from the earthy-witchy vibe of Stevie Nicks to Diane Keaton's tomboyish getups in Annie Hall, we’re all about bringing the distinctive spirit of that decade into the 21st century. “In the past year, there’s been an amping up of style influences from all aspect of the '70s,” says fashion historian Laura McLaws Helms, whose book Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic (V & A Publications) debuted last month. “There is a harking back to what people thought was a more fun and free time.”

We're taking a little trip back to the era of free love and positive vibes. Join us ahead as we take a closer look at eight different iconic looks from the '70s, for which Helms helps provide fashion historical context. Retro just became modern again — see how you can bring the groove back in your own wardrobe.

The Retro-Fitted Ribbed Top
"Ribbed tops were huge in the '70s," Helms says. "I think it had a lot to do with manufacturing and the ability to make knit tops at a mass-market level. Knitting machines became more prevalent in the '60s — before that, they were mostly woven. This was a time when things were switching over." Also, pairing tight tops with baggy pants was a big trend in both both men and women's fashion. "The '70s was a time when people were highlighting the fit, healthy, athletic but curvy body, and the clothes emphasized that. The jeans were tight over the hips but would flare out, and the tops were also quite tight. It wasn't about showing much skin; it was about revealing your body through the cuts," Helms explains. To achieve a similar, updated look, pull up a pair of wide-legged jeans, but pair them with a slightly looser-fitting, ribbed collared shirt to give yourself a bit more wiggle room on top.

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Photographed by Kathy Lo.
Left image: Sorelle Anja Earring, $120, available at Sorelle; Eckahus Latta top.
Right Image: Gucci Lace-Up Denim Midi Dress, $1995, available at NET-A-PORTER; Linea Germania Silky Sorbet, $110, available at Mengly Hernandez.

Not Your Grandmother's Crochet
If you think the DIY movement is strong now, it was even more prevalent in the early '70s, when it seemed everyone embraced their crafty side. "Crochet seemed to evolve from the hippie movement of the late '60s. It was a step back into the craft movement, which was a reaction to the Cold War, the commercialization of America, and the mass market that happened after WWII," Helms says. "A lot of people were into making their own clothes, evoking simpler times. Then, it became more of a trend." Bring this trend to 2015 by wearing crocheted details in an interesting shape, like an airy, side-slit tank that ties in the back.

The Plunging-V Neckline
Deep necklines, like the tight-on-top and baggy-on-bottom look, was also a popular trend for both men and women in the 1970s. "Again, it was about things that were fitted that were revealing and not revealing at the same time," Helms says. "It was about showing your body as much as possible, but not always in a vulgar way. The body was a lot sexier in the '70s than it was in the Twiggy-like '60s." Plunging V-necks are virtually everywhere you look — you can even leave a few buttons undone on a collared long-sleeve. Though, we suggest plucking a deep V that has fresh adornments, like thick laces.

Photographed by Kathy Lo.
Trademark City Sweatshirt, $168, available at Trademark; Sorelle Cherie Necklace, $100, available at Sorelle; Edith A. Miller shirt, Jill Stuart 'Serin' shorts.

How Suede It Is
Suede was the fabric of the '70s, used in all sorts of silhouettes including dresses, capes, and skirts. "It was a material that could look put-together for work — it was the era that women were really working in the office, and they weren’t just secretaries. They were moving up in companies," Helms explains. "And, the way women dressed for work started to shift along with that. Suede held the shape and wouldn’t get crumpled, so [suede pieces] were appealing for the new woman on the go." The decade's color palette was dominated by rich earth tones like dusty rose, teal, browns, and mustard. To bring this element of '70s style to your everyday, go for suede shorts or trousers with pleated details that keep the bottoms structured, even as the leather wears in.

7 For All Mankind x Giambattista Valli jeans.

Ring Those Bellbottoms

"Women hadn’t been wearing pants for that long at this point. It became a lot more acceptable in the '70s," Helms says of the billowing silhouette, which was often paired with a tucked-in, tight-fitting top. "The '70s pants really hugged the butt, the thighs, and had that lean leg. Bellbottoms really showed those off in a flattering way." To keep the flared trend looking modern, replace the tight tops for something more relaxed and oversized.

Bring On The Funky Accessories

To understand the importance of accessories during the '70s, Helms takes us back a bit further. "In the '40s and '50s, you had to wear accessories that matched and coordinated with your outfits. You bought one very special bag and shoes, and that’s all you wore for the season. You had to wear the white gloves, you had to wear a hat. Those rules were broken down in the late '60s with the social and cultural revolution," Helms explains. "So, in the '70s I think there was this idea that you were still expected to have that scarf and handkerchief, because people grew up with it and had that in their minds. But, they were finally having a lot more fun with crazy prints, and taking it up a few notches." While you could tie a scarf around your head, as many young people did during that decade, adding a touch of retro can be as simple as knotting one around a purse.

Carven jacket and skirt.

Patriots Only
"There was so much that happened in the entire decade, but in 1976 during the United States Bicentennial, everyone was wearing red, white, and blue for one whole year — and the brightest, poppiest shades of it," Helms says. "Everyone did a lot of colorblocking: a bright blue skirt, bright yellow top, bright green shoes — it was a lot more normal then than it is now." This modern yet retro dress takes a cue from pop art and the mod style of the '60s, but honors the patriotic hues of the Bicentennial — without leaving you looking like Uncle Sam.

Photographed by Kathy Lo.
Michael Kors jacket.

The Biker Babes Are In Town
If you're wondering how your favorite moto jacket came to be, you have the '70s to thank. "Motorcycle and scooter culture really started in the '50s, and became more popular in the '60s and '70s," Helms says. "The zipper became a prominent design detail of the scooter jacket. It's funny how a subcultural style could become a part of fashion over a 15 to 20-year period, and become something acceptable you could wear to the office." Best of all, it doesn't matter if you prefer a denim zip-up or a leather outer — the jacket layer is one you can throw on over any outfit, regardless of which decade you're channeling.

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Saint Laurent belt.

The Layered Hippie Gal
"The dress over jeans is a look that was leftover from the '60s, when people just wore what they had," Helms says of the hippie era. "Young kids were traveling around collecting things. So, it was about layering all these pieces, because it was what all they had." For example, this layered look of a floral print dress, distressed jeans, and a studded belt could easily have been worn in the 1970s, but it would have been purely non-intentional. "Throwing together random things from your closet wasn’t acceptable before the late '60s," Helms adds. "The '70s was a time when fashion conventions truly broke down." And, since we're on the side of fashion having no boundaries, we definitely encourage you to get creative with layering different textures, patterns, and materials.