A Quick And Dirty History Of 1970's Glam Fashion

A Quick And Dirty History Of 1970's Glam Fashion

Strap in because we’re gonna take you on a ride through the swingin’ 1970s. This decade was kicked off by the Summer of Love, and counter-culture fashion - and lifestyles - dominated the decade. In this post, we will look specifically at the Glam Rock trend, and how everyday people brought a little touch of sparkle into their everyday wardrobe. So let’s get glam!

The “Me” Decade

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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The 1970s were defined by individual freedom. The cultural tides of the 60s - including Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, and Hippy Movement - had a lasting impact, and what was once revolutionary became mainstream. This meant there was an attitude of “if it feels good, do it!”. Vogue proclaimed at the start of the decade "There are no rules in the fashion game now".

Synthetic fabrics made it easy for people to try out the latest styles - even if they were out there. Experimentation with polyester, faux-leather, sequins and even feather boas were all on the table. New techniques in sewing meant that even at a modest price, people were able to afford to try new trends. And try they did!

A major outcome of hippy’s challenging gender roles in the 60s was that in the 70s, styles became even more androgynous. Men and women’s styles began to blend together. The most popular silhouette of the mid and late 1970s for both genders was that of tight on top and loose on the bottom. The look was striking - and very glam.

What is “Glam” anyway?

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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While there were lots of subcultures of the 70s - hippy looks, punk rock, and a new hip hop scene, - but glam rock was one of the more defining. The style started in the UK with an appearance on Top of the Pops in 1971 by T-Rex, who wore glitter and satin. 

The look exploded with the popularity of artists like the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. These frontmen rocked platform shoes, tight leotards, and even makeup. These looks were a visual way to challenge the mainstream, and also had roots in punk music.  But despite taking on typically female fashion their masculinity was not questioned. In fact, these bold fashion choices made them even sexier!

For women, the glam style was a backlash of the casual thrown together hippy look of the 1960s. Tight and revealing, these sirens rocked super-low cuts, backless pantsuits, and feminine hair and makeup. Stars like Cher and Farrah Faucet were at the forefront of the over-the-top sexy trend. Their style was perfect for dancing to the new disco sounds and looked great under the club lights.

Trends To Get You Glam 

To get the glam look, it doesn’t take a lot - mostly sex appeal! But a few key items can bring out your inner disco queen or rock god. Let’s take a look at these pieces, and we’ll show you how to make them glam rock, or glam goddess!

Jump into a Jumpsuit

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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Polyester meant that the new jumpsuit style wasn't only sexy - it was stretchy and comfortable! This trend was a major one for both men and women. The look usually featured a deep V neck or blouse sleeves, with fitted bell bottoms on the legs. 

For the rocker side, the jumpsuit usually had large, theatrical sleeves and even sequins to catch the stage lights. KISS was famous for rocking this look, usually in black with sequins with a cape for added theatrical effect. 

For a more sexy feminine look, the jumpsuit was low cut - even down to the bellybutton - and backless. A built-in belt or sash helped accent the waist. A jumpsuit in a bright color - or even metallic - was a must for any 70s girl looking to stand out!

Bell of the Ball 

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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For men and women of all ages, bell bottoms and bell sleeves were WAY in. The bigger the flare, and the tighter the top, the better. 

Bell bottom pants and jeans were designed to be tight up top, then flared at the ankle. New denim blends and polyester pants allowed these to be shimmied into while still being ultra-tight. Even men rocked this style, despite some potential discomfort!

Bell sleeves were also big among men and women. Like the flared pants, this belled out at the wrist, giving the wearer a whimsical look. 

For glam rockers, bell-bottoms were all the rage but usually worn a little sagged down or held up by a funky belt. Patches or ribbons along the edge added a little personalized flair. 

For the sexy glam look, polyester was more in-style for night time than jeans. Bell sleeves were popular to pair with a laced up v-neck top to give the outfit a fanciful but still revealing edge - especially when paired with a cropped, midriff bearing cut!

Cropped Up Top

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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Another androgynous trend was crop tops. Everyone was leaving convention behind and showing off their midriff in the 70s, regardless of gender.

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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Most men in the 70s rocked cropped tops as part of an athletic look. They usually simply cut off t-shirts and sweatshirts, DIY style. But for a full glam rock look, a tight and glitter crop top a la David Bowie was open paired with skintight leather pants of jeans. And it didn't matter if you were hairy - the more curls peeking out the better!

For a sexy look, a crop top could be a “baby doll” t-shirt, shrunken down so it came just to the belly or a halter top tied at the deck. Most crop tops were usually still worn with cap sleeves at least or even bell sleeves, giving the wearer a block of color up to before showing any skin. 

Blousy - But Not Mousey  

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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The opposite of the crop top was the flowing blouse. Another trend for both men and women, this look was all about the material. A great printed silk shirt, with a wide collar, was a staple of the 70s wardrobe. It looks almost professional but overall very free and easy to wear. 

Rockers usually chose cotton, paisley, or super-funky prints. The look was to pair a flowing blouse with some super tight jeans to balance out the look.

To make it sexy, 70s glam goddesses rocked their blouses with an ultra-tight mini skirt - or even no bra! The sex appeal came from the color - usually bright - and the fabric - which usually clung in all the right places.

Both genders usually left the top unbuttoned, a testament to the free-flowing spirit of the 70s!

Never too High 

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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No 70s outfit was complete without a pair of ultra-high, ultra chunky platform shoes. These babies put the “high” in high heels, with anywhere from 2-5 inch lifts across the entire bottom of the shoe, giving the wearer some extra oomph. 

Both men and women rocked platform shoes, which also looked perfect with ultra wide-bell bottoms. Rockers tended to favor bolder, higher, and bedazzled or leather platforms, while a sexy disco look was open-toed, strappy platforms. Whatever you choose, just don’t fall!

Big Hair, Big Attitudes  

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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Everything in the 70s was just a little more polished than the 60s, including hair and makeup! The natural waves of the 60s were taken to another level with glamorous curls, waves, and even some teasing. Both men and women experimented more and more with products designed to enhance the natural texture of hair and add sexy sheen. For black women, the Afro was both a symbol of embracing their blackness and a glamorous natural style.

Men having long hair also went mainstream, and with it came a whole new market for men's haircare. Unlike the hippies of the 60s, a 70s guy took pride in his lustrous locks and worked their sex appeal.

Women also embraced the naturally enhanced look The biggest disco look was “feathering” - curling the sides of the hair to gently frame the face in a sexy way. The 70s icon Farrah Fawcett made this style popular, and women everywhere embraced it for a day to day glam look.

Makeup to Break Up

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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Make up has always been a way to add some glamour to a look, and the 70s embraced it full on. Glam rock stars like David Bowie and KISS were not afraid to experiment with makeup in a big way, going so far as full face paint. But the average everyday man didn't wear makeup - even if his rock idols did. 

Women were another story. The glam goddesses of the 70s used a soft, warm palette with striking color for the eyes. Blue and green eyeshadow was popular, set off by coral lips and cheeks. And the gloss was everywhere. The glossier the better! All the more glistening shine to catch the light on the dance floor - or on a sexy date.

A Juiced Up Decade

A Quick and Dirty History of 1970's Glam Fashion

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The glam aesthetic of the 70s was all about one thing - sex! The sexual liberation of the 60s came on full force in the 70s and invaded the households of everyday Americans. Man or woman, black or white,` rocker or pin-up, it didn’t matter. If it was tight and shiny, it was in style! So bring a little glam into your everyday wardrobe. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up swinging into something new!

You might also want to look at:

How Did Guys Dress in the 1970s?
The Get Down: A Look Into the Culture of the 1970s
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Retro Fashion for Men: What Clothing did Men Wear in the 1930s?