What Did Women Wear in the 70s?

By Michelle Powell-Smith

Women's fashion in the '70s embraced new aesthetics, sometimes practical and other times downright groovy. The pantsuit found its place in the office, while skirt lengths varied from the micro-mini to the maxi. Accessories took on new importance, from everyday shoes and macrame belts to sky-high platform heels. Fashion of the '70s was influenced by the hippies, disco and a new interest in function, particularly for women in the workplace.

Portrait of young woman in 1970's fashion
credit: SanneBerg/iStock/Getty Images
Bold prints, long flowing hair and oversized glasses are all styles of the 1970s.

A Place for Pants

While women wore pants occasionally during much of the 20th century, they became more common and accepted in the 1970s. Pants ranged from bell-bottom denim jeans, frequently embellished with patches and embroidery to the popular polyester pantsuit, consisting of a matched blazer and pants. While pants were still not suitable for women for every occasion, they now found a place in classrooms, shopping centers and even some offices.

Super Skirts

While pants were becoming more popular, women still wore skirts, both for dress and casual occasions. Skirts were available in varying lengths: mini, midi and maxi. The mini was short, the midi just below the knee and the maxi all the way to the ankle or top of the foot. Mini skirts and mini dresses were worn to the disco, typically paired with platform shoes or boots. Midi skirts were ideal for working women and students and were worn with flats, heels or boots. Maxi skirts were often associated with either hippies or with a frillier, Victorian-inspired style.

Tops of All Types

Shirts and blouses varied widely during the '70s, from those with lace and ribbon trim to loose peasant-style tops. Women commonly wore button-down shirts or high-necked blouses with pants or skirts for work. Sporty tees and even the tube top -- a narrow, strapless band of fabric that covered the bus -- were suitable for casual wear. Lightweight jackets and coats in a variety of lengths were matched to the garments below. For instance, an ankle-length maxi dress was often worn with a maxi coat.

Awesome Accessories

Like the fashions of the 1970s, the accessories varied from professional to playful. Working women carried large leather handbags and favored practical shoes with low, chunky heels. Outside the office, handmade accessories played a key role, from macrame belts to quilted patchwork handbags. Hand crafts were in style and girls and women made many of their own accessories for casual wear. For evening wear, sparkle and shimmer reigned, including decorative platform shoes and sparkling jewelry.