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Article: 1970s Sundresses


The 1970s brought with it a fashion revolution. Feminist fashion allowed women to select how they felt like dressing each day, even if it varied from day to day.


Short skirts, maxi dresses, midi skirts, hot pants, trousers, and sundresses reflected the designers who were searching for inspiration. The prints for these sundresses included exotic and tropical designs, ever influencing the aspiring fashion designer. Dressy occasions allowed for flared or straight sundresses which incorporated sequined fabric or exotic designs.


These dresses evolved from high standard necklines full of lace trim to short and mini dresses which landed at the knee or above. Sundresses from the 1970s included a yoked neck, or dresses with a square neckline bodice.


In either instance, these dresses influenced the urge to get a tan. The halter neck sundress was the biggest success of the 1970s in terms of evening wear and day wear. The designs were maxi or above one’s knee making it famous at a disco.

Travel was made easier during the 1970s which influenced the ideas of self-styled hippie clothing which included accessories and ideals from each global village. Enclosed heated cars and central heating systems demanded dresses which were lighter and accommodating of the heat. While liberating women through exposure, sundresses were perfect for traveling and women no longer needed to don a full length coat.


The United Kingdom became heated in every home and store, making it simple for women to wear lighter and more revealing dresses knowing that they would only endure cold for the time spent between cars and buildings. Sundresses were complemented with lighter wool velour jackets, dyed raincoats, velvet jackets, and padded duvet coats.

Other countries left their mark on 1970s sundresses with exotic fabrics and designs. Nehru jackets complemented dresses, while Yves St. Laurent carefully extracted ideals from djellabas from Morocco, jalabiyas, caftans, kaftans, muumuus, and kimonos to create comfort dresses and home style robes.


The ethnic influences of 1970s sundresses did not stop here. Crochet waistcoats, shawls, ponchos, bikinis, and trimmed petticoat hemlines beneath sundresses became quite famous.


Softly pleated skirts were combined with patchwork print effects to create a feminine fashion line. Indian contributed dresses made of cotton voile and overprinted in gold. These colors expounded upon the neutral plaid of the first sundresses and incorporated bright pinks, blues, and sea greens.

Ethnic influences continued with Afghan fur trims as well as cheesecloth fabrics during the 1970s. Chiffons were combined with cotton voiles while Broderie Anglaise offered a virginal fashion quality and cheesecloths were used flared away from the waist, a higher flare than the original sundresses which began below the waist.


Modifying the sundress was platform soled shoes. These shoes peaked with four inches of platform with a sole one inch thick.


Cream colored sundresses were popular when worn with black platform heels. Mixing and matching knitwear complemented the sundresses of the 1970’s. Making them acceptable day wear in the fall and chilly spring mornings, matching knitted and jersey fabrics were seen in zig zag patterns and bright colors, accenting a plain sundress or complementing and patterned dress.


When cooler winters came, acrylic scarves, wool scarves, knitted chenille hats, and matching gloves were combined with knitted sweaters over dresses.


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