The 1970s Have Co-Opted 2015

We are no strangers to nostalgia. We crave it, we worship it, we post about it  and, perhaps most pertinently in the recent dawn of Fashion Month, we wear it. The Seventies have been vehemently revived on the runway. As a result, few collections do not present suede, shearling or warm, earthy tones. Seeking a pant without flare is like seeking chocolate with no sugar: vaguely rare and frankly, kind of bitter. But the thing about the runway replicas of seventies hallmarks is precisely that  — they’re replicas.

Maybe this indicates the longevity and attractiveness of seventies fashion, but in the oversimplification of an entire decade of clothes, the devaluing of fashion history presents itself as another overarching trend.

In the use of the concept of minimalism, the decade in question is reduced to little nuance. Surely the more bohemian looks of the early seventies vary from the tailored activewear of mid-decade, which in turn is different from the styles that just preceded the eighties. It was a span of time that is marked by substantial shifts in both style and politics, and yet, this went largely unexplored in New York at Fashion Week. Never mind the mere fact that the city is home to several designers who punctuated the bygone and renewed era: Halston, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg et al.

But the disregard for contextual history doesn’t just plague the most recent trend on our hands — altogether collections of the past few seasons have become permutations of what they’d previously been. Rare is a designer who does more than fix his syntax. But it seems like an impossibility that the apparent talent on display is just less creative than it has been, so maybe the democratization of both information and archives have provided an opportunity to play around with a bottomless inventory of looks that make the subsequent fusion and production astonishingly easy.

Worth asking is whether this odd, democracy-derived sense of ownership made modern fashion an abridged version of its own history, much the same way SparkNotes can summarize a Dostoyevsky novel in, say, 5oo words.

But an industry founded on the tenets of pushing boundaries and breaking barriers can’t rely on the crutch of the past forever. Sure, the nature of fashion is cyclical, but replication is detrimental to innovation. And when coupled with the mass dissemination of information, the runway becomes less influential than it ever has been. Where innovation wanes, the consumer rises. Of the clothes and their inspiration, will the girls of 2015 be saying: “I can make that myself”?

We defer to Paris.

Edited by Leandra Medine

Get more Fashion ?
  • Allie Fasanella

    Digging the chocolate metaphor. Good stuff, Emma.

  • Great article Emma! Do you have any predictions or thoughts on upcoming seasons/collections? If certain designers do stay with the 70’s vibe what would you like to see change?

  • Kelsey Moody

    “Worth asking is whether this odd, democracy-derived sense of ownership made modern fashion an abridged version of its own history”– wonderful food for thought this Monday! I will now defer all things 1970s related your way, Ms Hager.

  • I feel that your point is very relevant not only in the world of fashion but from a general artistic perspective as well. For example, look at the movies that are making big money today: many of them are sequels, or are based on books or historical events. It is becoming less common to find blockbusters that run purely original plots.

    I agree with your point regarding the runway losing influence; I feel that today’s fashion trends are trickling up more so than down. Designers are consistently drawing inspiration from what we wear on the streets rather than it being the other way around.

    Your exploration of 70s revival comes at a perfect timing of course with all the looks we’ve been seeing during Fashion Week, but also because on Friday we had just been discussing this issue in my Fashion Club. I asked the group how we could define our generation’s style and generally people looked quite perplexed as they pondered their responses. So often have we seen “throwback” looks and revivals of certain decades that it has become difficult to discern any type of innovation in fashion. However, we came to the postmodern consensus that although our generation’s style cannot be strictly defined, it is loosely shaped by the fact that mixing and matching is so prevalent and that we are breaking down barriers that seemed concrete. We pair 70’s inspired jeans with vintage band tees from the 90’s, thus fusing together two very different decades; denim with denim, which was at one point was considered sinful; athletic jackets with sequins and sneakers with tulle skirts, boldly blending athletic wear with evening styles; and designer bags with thrifted threads, allowing to mix high fashion with low. Arguably, our ability to confidently bring together such radically different styles can be as innovative as creating brand new ones.

  • With all the discussions and think pieces on the 70s’ influence on fashion week this year, I could never help but think of you and your thoughts, Emma. I often have these conversations with friends who point out the repetitive nature of fashion and the runway. As you so eloquently put it, the influence begins to decline. It’s like that thing where you repeat a word so many times it loses its meaning (semantic satiation, I think).

    (And yay emma on MR on a monday!)

    • Thanks! And you’re so right. When we can walk into a Salvation Army and can say “I found the missing dress from Gucci/Saint Laurent/a bajillion other designers’ spring and fall presentations!” then we know for sure that nothing innovative is being produced. (We can also get ‘runway’ clothes, then, for like $7.50, so that increases consumer efficacy in a way that might be detrimental to producers….?)

  • a very relevant article! loved it. also loved the chocolate metaphor..! good stuff

    ellie xo

  • Accidental icon

    I have to say I find this perspective most refreshing. As someone who actually wore all the clothes when they first emerged in the 1970″s I cannot remove them from the context I wore them in. It was a different time with different issues, opportunities and challenges. At this point in my life I don’t want to go back to wearing clothes I wore when I was a teen. I am a grown-up living in a modern world of technology. Come on give me something I can work with here! What would the Apple watch be like if it was a dress or a coat?

    Accidental icon

  • Loved seeing all those editorials from the seventies.

  • Lookcey

    I love the thoughts in this article! As a consumer it’s not only a bit disappointing but slightly exhausting to see the same trends over and over. It’s akin to Hollywood recycling 80’s movies and TV instead of coming up with more actual new ideas. Originality please!!

  • Am loving the 70s vibe, but it can also feel a little costume-y if not executed well.

  • Well hopefully for businesses like ours, this will build a higher appreciation for vintage clothing which in most case can be a more affordable and authentic style choice to stay on trend.

    • Maybe! Why seek the copy when the Real Deal is far more feasible?

  • Emily

    So can anyone become an MR writer?

  • dricous

    great job 🙂

  • The result of being an old soul is the strong sense of nostalgia felt for decades you weren’t even alive in. It’s a beautiful thing to feel such a connection and this piece proves it. Great job, Emmmaaaaaa.

  • parkzark

    Such a thoughtful, well-written piece! GET IT EMMA.

  • And thank God for it!!


  • Great post! Love earlier 70’s!

  • deerbua

    i like this set