The era now represents classic chic, as evidenced at Paris fashion week – and just a few additions can unlock the potential of your existing wardrobe
There is a logical, mathematical explanation for why the 70s have been pronounced chic by Paris fashion week. The 90s are the new 70s, you see, and the 70s are the new 50s. It goes like this. When the 70s were the recent past, they were cringe-makingly close to home, and therefore easy to poke fun at. Now, the 90s are the relatively recent past – and so 90s revivalism has become fashion’s go-to gag. Chunky trainers, bucket hats, slip dresses, crop tops, hoodies: these are all played for laughs. The 70s, meanwhile, have slipped into rose-tinted memory, the embarrassing parts forgotten along the way. The decade is coming to stand for classic chic, in the way that the 50s previously did before being consigned to ancient history.
This 70s rehabilitation has been quietly happening for a little while. There is a look that radiates outward from the catwalks of Chloé and Isabel Marantinto the audience, loyally repped at Paris fashion week by many French Vogue staffers. It centres on wide-legged white jeans or long pleated skirts, loose trench coats and chunky-heel burgundy boots, snake-effect saddle bags and long, shaggy hair. Forget purple loon pants. Forget hippy chic, forget John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. This take on the 70s is part Charlie perfume ad, part Bianca Jagger in an Yves Saint Laurent trouser suit and part Boogie Nights. It is a tight slogan T-shirt, a good pair of aviator shades, a silk scarf, knotted at the throat. There is not a bell bottom or a hand-painted daisy in sight.
The 70s became headline news in Paris this week because of Hedi Slimane at Celine. To recap, everyone was really upset with Slimane last season for swapping out Old Céline (the “ceramicist with a private income” look) for New Celine (unreconstructed groupie chic). This week, instead of going back to Old Céline, he went to Old Old Celine – an ultra-bourgeois late-70s version of what ladylike looks like, with attitude and great wedge boots. And – again, to precis – the fashion industry looked at the collection and thought: ‘That’s exactly what I want to wear.’
The 70s references that matter now cluster at the later end of the decade, edging into the 80s. To get a sense of the wide spread of coordinates of this look, consider that Studio 54 closed only one year before the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. So the look is one part Manhattan debauchery to one part Sloane Ranger.
We have heard a lot of David Bowie, Chic and Chaka Khan on show soundtracks this week, but Grace Jones stole the whole Paris show when she performed at Tommy Hilfiger on Saturday night. Her Nightclubbing album-cover silhouette is everywhere in the exaggerated shoulders at Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Givenchy. There are jumpsuits at Balenciaga, and safari suit styling at Isabel Marant. There have been paisley and silk scarf prints and Halston-esque one-shoulder looks were supremely elegant at Altuzarra. Mustard and brown ruled at Hermès; high-waisted jeans killed it at Tommy. So far, so foxy. If you still think the 70s are naff – well, babycakes, you are so last season. JCM
70s on the street
It is hard to avoid plundering the 70s when its influence is everywhere on the catwalk, which means the trickle-down effect from show to pavement was already well under way on the streets of Paris.
The look is easy to envisage, but hard to pull off. The 70s was an era of bell-bottom trousers and glam rock, of women’s rights, strikes and Watergate. There was a lot of polyester and women wearing masculine trousers. There was a lot of brown and beige, too (the predominant colours of spring 2019 at Burberry, Balmain and Max Mara), leather and suede jackets, and long boots under calf-grazing skirts. This is the stuff that real people pilfered; with all that brown and leg, Paris looks positively forest-like.
So how did they wear it? Layered, mostly, and in a 70s palette of browns, greens and yellows. The Ukrainian fashion director Julie Pelipas (above, second right) was seen outside the Thom Browne show in a miscellany of 70s looks – polo neck under a shirt, a high-waist skirt that had an Ali MacGraw feel, and boots that looked more Suzy Quattro. Danish stylist Pernille Teisbaek (above, second left) did something similar with her skirt and boots (we probably need a word for this silhouette: floor lamp?). The Taiwanese actor Tiffany Hsu worked colour backwards wearing a mustard suit and tight-knit top.
The art director Sofía Sanchez de Betak (above, centre) probably won the look. The thrown-together layering of tie, tweed blazer, trench and scarf in various shades of brown and grey was discordant, and a direct reference to Annie Hall – bourgeois Manhattanite is something to aim for. Seen alongside the editor-in-chief of Another Man, Ben Cobb, who never dresses like it’s not 1974, and apparently takes his cues from Dario Argento films (he’s rarely without flares, tweed coat and scarf), her look was pure 70s without becoming fancy dress.
It helps too that the best bits of the 70s work well in colder months. Paris was mixed weather-wise, so the rain meant no kaftans. Phew. MF
How to nail the look yourself
Seventies style has become such a constant in our wardrobes that it’s very likely most of us own a piece of clothing that now qualifies as on-trend. Bootcut jeans, floral maxi dresses, pussy-bow blouses, knee-high boots and long leather coats are all signatures from the disco decade. All that’s needed this season is a little focused styling and the addition of one or two well-chosen purchases to unlock their potential and make your look pop.
The best place to start is with denim. Marks & Spencer’s new belted shirt dress and Mango’s peak lapel jumpsuit offer one-stop-shop solutions to being 70s-ready. For extra warmth, make like the street-style stars paying homage to Annie Hall and wear a thin polo neck underneath (Tu at Sainsbury’s has styles for £4). Gap’s wide-leg jeans are £49.90 and come in three washes ranging from a UK size 2 to 24. These will help you instantly master the look.
For a more polished alternative, look to Zara, which has made the sophisticated side of the 70s its calling card. Its blazer (£69.99), pussybow blouse and flared culottes (both £25.99) combo epitomises this refined approach and comprises pieces that can be swapped in and out of other outfits. For example, team the blouse with those wide-legged jeans, the flared culottes with that polo neck and so on. In the same vein, a sharp Le Smoking-inspired blazer helps nail the look, but also goes with everything – look to H&M and Whistles for the best black and white styles priced between £25 and £299.
For outerwear, the trench coat – belted and worn with leather boots – is the way to go (think Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer). If you don’t already have one in your wardrobe, the JW Anderson x Uniqlo collaboration has just delivered a belter this week at £149.90, while Office has the perfect knee-high leather boots for £80. A long leather coat is another bona fide option. Vintage shops such as Rokit have ultra-chic options for about £50. As this cyclical trend has proven, anything you do buy will be an investment. SC