Much of the experimental, so-called “hippie” style actually originated in the early 1970s. Flower power was in full swing at the beginning of the decade and it showed in the flowing, floral patterns that decorated many dresses from that era.
Many women had different dresses for different occasions. They wore evening gowns at home, which were silky smooth, loose fitting and very comfortable. They were also known as ankle sweepers. Instead of wearing fluffy slippers like their mothers, the fashion-conscious seventies woman was encouraged to wear mid-height heels for added “excitement.”
The hemline was all over the place. Both short dresses and long dresses could be worn in almost any situation. Typically, younger women preferred the shorter skirts.
Belts were a very popular accessory to a 1970s dress. As were bows, necklaces and jackets. Other dresses had dramatic collars.
One new style that became quite popular were pants that looked like a dress. They were called Palazzo pants. They look like really exaggerated bell-bottoms, and if a woman stood with her legs close together it looked like she was wearing a long skirt or dress. While Palazzo pants aren’t technically a dress, they are still unmistakably seventies.
Designers had and used every fabric at their disposal and they were very experimental. The common dress was typically some kind of blend. Knit dresses were very popular throughout the 1970s.
1970s dresses also liked a bit of ethnic flair. Indian patterns and Native American patterns were some of the most popular. Asian patterns also had a good run in the mid-seventies. Certainly women loved wild colors and floral patterns in the early seventies. That changed later on — the mid-seventies were dominated by pastels and women in the late 1970s preferred earthy tones like browns, light blues and tans.
One thing that is impossible to miss while studying 1970s fashion: women wore pants more than they wore dresses. As the decade wore on, page after page of catalogs are filled with different types of women’s pants. For everyday life, the dress had taken a back seat to pants (aka trousers, slacks) — a trend that continues to this day.
Skirts were made very much like dresses. The hemline could be at the ankle, the knee or as high as you can imagine. If a woman wanted to wear a shirt or a blouse, but didn’t want to wear pants, then the skirt was the obvious choice.