If, like me, you were born in the 1970s then you will almost certainly have fond memories of the decade. Perhaps this is inevitable given that we always see our childhood through rose tinted glasses. I would like to think, however, that there are certain facets and elements of 70s culture and society that make it really stand out. In this article I’m going to explore our current obsession with all things 1970s through the looking glass of fancy dress costumes and see whether the hundreds of 70s costumes available reveal a deeper fondness for a bygone age.
You only need take a look at the huge range of 70s costumes available nowadays to see how big a revival of 1970s culture is taking place. No doubt this is in part due to the fact that so many people born in the 1970s are now in their thirties, and are therefore a prominent part of the workforce. These are the people that grew up with Star Wars, The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. These films and TV series may seem inconsequential but to my generation they are incredibly important culturally. These programmes may seem simplistic and ‘low budget’ in comparison with modern productions, but they had something that so many modern programmes lack- imagination!
It’s not only in the wide range of TV and Film costumes that we see the influence of the 1970s. We also see it in the huge range of ‘regular’ 70s fancy dress items. These include the very popular ‘pimp style’ outfits no doubt popularised by characters like Huggy Bear, as well as the ubiquitous ‘disco diva’ costumes. Both these styles embody the idea of excess and theatricality that were at the heart of seventies fashion. And it’s good to know that these 70s influenced costumes have inspired modern fashion designers to look back to the 70s for inspiration for their collections.
We also see the influence of the 1970s in specific costumes from the UK. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I was a huge fan of such series as Bagpuss and Rainbow. These probably won’t mean a lot to my American friends, but in the UK they were hugely popular. It is only in recent years that costume manufacturers have brought out costumes from these ranges. The Rainbow series of costumes in particular have proved incredibly popular, not only with my generation, but also with children now. Perhaps there is something to be said for programmes that rely more on imagination than high production values after all?
Of course, it would be wrong of me to suggest that everything that came out of the 1970s was great. Indeed, there are some pretty awful examples of some fashion disasters. I remember my mother dressing me in these really colourful, uncomfortable shirts that were made from polyester (yuck!)These shirts also sported the longest collars you will ever see, and were truly hideous. That said, I think every decade has its share of fashion mistakes, not just the seventies!
I hope that I have given even just a small taster of why I think the 1970s are so important culturally, and especially 70s costumes. I could go on for hours pointing out all the ways this decade has influenced our modern culture. Personally I need only think of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog to be persuaded of the importance of this fantastic decade!