How To Dress Like a '70s Fashion Idol

  When someone says “’70s style,” what do you picture? Is it leather jackets and studs, or bell bottoms and flowy tops? Or maybe you just see a lot of ABBA bodysuits? We throw around the term “’70s style” like there was one definitive popularized way of dressing when in reality, the rock and pop stars of the decade covered a wide variety of different aesthetics.

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When someone says “’70s style,” what do you picture? Is it leather jackets and studs, or bell bottoms and flowy tops? Or maybe you just see a lot of ABBA bodysuits?

We throw around the term “’70s style” like there was one definitive popularized way of dressing when in reality, the rock and pop stars of the decade covered a wide variety of different aesthetics. To find which style serves you best, keep reading for the ultimate breakdown of ’70s fashion. 

Hippie Culture

Admit it: we’re all kinda obsessed with hippies phase. The colors, the designs, the music...everything comes back into fashion eventually, and hippie culture is no exception.

As a refresher, hippies were born out of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, and their main goal was to spread peace and love throughout the world. They also enjoyed taking mind-altering substances, which ended up having a substantial influence on the way they dressed. 

Easy, Breezy

A huge signifier that an outfit is hippie or boho is the presence of flowy, loose clothing. To dress like a counterculture love child, you can never go wrong with a pair of wide-legged pants and a classic leather mule to match.

Or, if you’re looking for something a little more comfortable for your next music festival, a wide-sleeved dress or embroidered peasant top will forever be attributed to hippie fashion. Fringe plays a large role in boho aesthetics as well, and you can always bet on a classic harem pant to take an outfit from basic to hippie. 

There are certain patterns and designs that automatically evoke hippie vibes as well, such as paisleys, florals, and tie-dye. Not to mention, incorporating a good peace sign, either on prints or in accessories, will always feel reminiscent of the hippie movement, thanks to the anti-war beliefs that the culture was built upon.

Speaking of accessories, a headband or bandana should definitely be your go-to, right next to your trusty tote bag. Even more, long statement necklaces never fail to look boho, and neither does a hand covered in stone rings and some henna. 

Punk Life

Shifting gears completely in style but not totally in beliefs, the ’70s were also the era of the punks. Similar to hippies, punks, too, were birthed from the counterculture movement. Their aesthetics were purposely made to look darker, rougher, and edgier to separate themselves from the hippies entirely — almost like a counterculture from the counterculture. Punks were much more inflammatory than hippies, both in the ways they expressed their politics and expressed their style.

The two subcultures shared some commonalities; punks were deeply anti-establishment. They were much like the hippies who stood up against their governments fighting in unjust wars but didn’t exactly believe in peaceful change. 

Instead, they wanted to tear down the powers that be from the inside out, and the fashion choices that resulted most certainly reflected their desire to cause trouble. 

Turn Up the Shock Factor

Punk fashion was made popular by designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, who famously owned a store together called SEX, and created the punk look as we know it today. Everything you envision when you hear the word “punk” is because of them.

So if you’re looking to live out your wildest punk dreams next Halloween, make sure to take a page out of the Westwood-McLaren style book and pack on the studs, clothing pins, metal chains, leather, and offensive imagery.

A graphic tee paired with dark jeans or a plaid mini skirt and ripped tights is a solid place to start, and let’s not forget about the pièces de résistance: the leather jacket.

Leather jackets are a timeless staple in the punk scene, due to their grungy aesthetic and ability to be customized with patches and metal hardware. Throw on a pair of fishnet fingerless gloves, a dark lip color, and some Doc Martens and you’ll look like you’ve just been transported directly from a photograph of the original SEX storefront. Mohawk optional.

Seventies Rock Stars

It’s easy to associate rock stars with unconventional, “in your face” looks and aesthetics, but actually, the rock stars of the ’70s (meaning: those who specialized in rock music) were rather tame dressers.

The members of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones loved to flaunt their bare chests in a loosely buttoned top, and were not above overdressing for an occasion in a nicely tailored suit.

Their outfits were always bursting with leather and suede, and they were never spotted without sporting their most beloved pair of booties. Subtle complexity seemed to be a key characteristic of the rock star ensemble, with the layering of vests, mixing of patterns, and even some flamboyant accessories from time to time.

To put it simply: they were good dressers. They respected fashion and didn’t let the gender role stereotypes put upon men steer them away from how they wanted to dress. And, most importantly, they demonstrated that a rock star could look like anything. 

The Original Pop Stars

The term “pop star” has an entirely different meaning today than it did in the 1970s. The pop stars of our generation are expected to be triple threat entertainers who can break the Internet with each new music video and put on a fantastical live show filled with choreography, outfit changes, and fanfare.

But more than anything, today’s pop stars are required to tether themselves to one specific genre of music: pop. None of this was the norm back in the ’70s for several reasons.

For starters, the technology was simply not advanced enough. Music videos wouldn’t even begin to gain prominence in pop culture until the next decade, and there was a lot of boundary-pushing that needed to be done before we could get to where we are now.

Pop stars like Elton John, Diana Ross, and ABBA were just a few of the revolutionaries who helped pave the way for the pop stars of today. Just like their genres of music, each of these acts had a thoroughly different approach to fashion, but that doesn’t make one any less impactful than the next. 

From Another Planet

Some of the biggest stars of the 70s chose to represent their onstage personas in a rather otherworldly or larger-than-life manner. The greatest example of this would be David Bowie, who was not afraid to turn male fashion completely on its head.

Finding the pieces needed to dress like Ziggy Stardust himself may prove to be a bit of a challenge, but it is a challenge worth taking. The biggest thing to remember about Bowie’s style was that he was always drawn to outlandish silhouettes, pattern combinations, and daring makeup looks. A zany bodysuit that tightly hugs your curves and elongates your legs is one of the most Bowie-esque pieces of clothing out there.

And, of course, we have to mention the one essential that remained constant throughout all of Bowie’s most iconic looks: platform boots. Platform boots were wildly popular in the ’70s, due to their playful, youthful nature and the personalization real estate within the platform sole.

It was not uncommon for people to put glitter in their clear platform boots to bring the party with them wherever they went, or even go so far as to literally walk on water by making a replica aquarium in the bottom of their shoe. 

Disco Fever

David Bowie may have been known to rock a good platform boot, but the shoe was far from being his own. Platforms were actually much more prevalent in the disco scene than any other and were even referred to as the “party shoe.”

Platforms were the original “going out” shoe, and it can be argued that disco was the originator of the going out outfit, thanks to aspirational clubs like Studio 54 encouraging everyone to turn out a look every single night. 

Vibrant Vibes

Unlike the other styles mentioned, disco fashion runs deeper than a few silhouettes, patterns, and accessories. Disco fashion was uniquely individualistic because it embraced and encouraged singularity through the expression of personality.

Because of this, a disco vixen look can be achieved in a variety of different ways. Stretchy, moveable materials like nylon, lycra, or spandex are essential not only to the aesthetic for their shiny sheen but for the inevitable dance party that is sure to take place wherever you go.

For pants, you are free to choose between a slimming skinny or a flirty flare. Disco tops are typically tiny, tight, and revealing, and dresses can be anything from a long, glittery gown to a short sequin show-stopping number. It wasn’t so much about what you were wearing as it was about how you wore it.

If you have a jumpsuit, make it the best jumpsuit on the block with an eye-catching belt and heels to match. If you want to wear as few clothes as possible, opting for a pair of short shorts and a bra top is totally acceptable, so long as you make every inch of fabric count.

Whatever you choose to wear, just remember to incorporate two of these three major elements: movement, shimmer, and color. 

Rock On

Everyone’s definition of a 1970s rock star is different. It’s very possible that the music you are most attached to from this era is someone else’s least favorite genre. But when you think about it, there wouldn’t have been this many iconic fashion styles to choose from had there been only one or two dominant sounds in the mainstream during this decade.

Because of this, it is crucial that we honor the musical diversity that the 1970s provided by speaking in a more nuanced manner when talking about the ’70s rock star aesthetic. 


Counterculture Movement | Civil Rights Digital History Project  

A Brief History of the Music Video | Crack Magazine 

 Punk, Politics and Youth Culture, 1976-84 | Reading History

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