A Review: Fifty Fashion Looks that Changed the 1970s

This was one of those books that I don’t quite remember how it came in to my possession. Library sale, Amazon discount, Goodwill….however it came to pass, Fifty Fashion Looks that Changed the 1970s was acquired and sat in my library for several years until I decided I needed a quick read to review. With 50 looks, it had to be a fast read, right?

Well it definitely was fast, at 106 pages, only half of those having a written description as each look was thankfully accompanied by a corresponding photo from the era. However fast it was, I was not particularly wowed by the book. The photos were lovely and author Paula Reed wrote excellent synopsis of what each style represented within context of the time, the book truly is a short overview of styles that could bear a deeper dive in meaning and overall punch to the fashion world at large.

On the flip side, of multiple fashion books I’ve perused regarding the 1970’s, this was one of the few that pinpointed Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress as the iconic piece it is, a style with such staying power that 40 years later, that all four of the Big 4 pattern companies have a wrap dress pattern (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue.)

Additionally, this book did not focus on what has come to be seen as the eyesores of the decade, focusing instead on the fashion forward looks (Ziggy Stardust, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood), and less on the knitted bell bottom suits. Reed also highlights the fantastic contributions of African American culture to some of the best looks the decade had to offer, dedicating a pages to Soul Train, Beverly Johnson, Pat Cleveland, and Disco. Reed also covers how globalization not just of fashion production but of fashion style truly exploded in the 1970’s, with haute couture designers Kanzai Yamamoto and Kenzo Takada making their debut contributions to fashion.

While necessarily shallow given the brevity of the book, Fifty Fashion Looks that Changed the 1970s provided some good jumping off points if you want to do a deep dive in to any one look. It also provided this excellent quote, attributed to Lauren Hutton: “Fashion is what you are offered and style is what you choose.”