That 70s Chic

Go from jumpsuit to palazzo pants without looking Starsky & Hutch

Words: Talya Galasko | Photography: Nick Gordon

As an adolescent, my wardrobe staples were an alarming assortment of Spandex bell-bottoms, from black to brown and a playful purple (at the time I had the body shape for it). From the depths of spandex, for a period of time that far outlasted my ability to fit (comfortably) into them, I was spotted frequently rollerblading up and down my driveway, watching reruns of Saturday Night Fever on Open Time and discussing the 70s with all available adults in a tone that rang nostalgic.

Everyone was fairly alarmed.

By the time I turned 13, I had extended my 70s fashion fever far beyond Spandex and crafted an imaginative lookbook for my July holiday in Umhlanga (better known back then as ‘umi’), which involved tube tops, scarves, feathers and roller blades. Of course once I arrived at the coast I resigned myself to a Von Dutch T-shirt and velcro Riders, and put my 70s fever at bay, where it remained for an unreasonable period of time.

Fortunately, this season’s resurrection of 70s glam has meant I can safely retire my VD tee and sandals, both of which have come to be 5 or so sizes too small and a few seasons out of fashion.

Let’s be frank: summer is a season of general undress. The staple outfit becomes a bikini, towel and havaianas and something related to the exhaustion induced by both sun and sea allows many of us to believe this ensemble to be transportable to a number of locations. But accept this as a general rule of thumb: unless you are under the age of 10, on vacation with your parents and in the hotel restaurant for breakfast, a cossie and flops will never pass as an ensemble, however laidback you are trying to go.

This season ‘tis the season to let your beach gear live on the beach and to glam all other shenanigans up and down – with a little help from our official 70s lookbook. We’ve brought you the classic designs: warm pastel colours, flare hemlines and sleeves, faux fur and kimonos. Bare in mind that with the right attitude and slight fashion-savvy, you can take these pieces from your daydrobe to evening wear with some statement jewels, height about the heel and a swoosh of lipstick.

These are our season’s 70s-inspired staples:

The cape dress + sherpa waistcoat

The cape dress silhouette was inspiration behind the thought, “you can have your sleeves and wear them too.” With its retro print, pastel palette and elegant neckline, this piece can be brought down to earth (quite literally) with a pair of lace-up sandals and a suede satchel, without making it look like you’ve tried too hard to fit into the set of Starsky & Hutch.

Here, however, we’ve paired it with a Sherpa-style waistcoat, which is where the ultra-chic truly comes in. Put these two together and your 70s glam game is a pure ten.

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Come on kimono + the flare jumpsuit

The jumpsuit has been about as abused as flare-style pants for most of the 2000s time frame. Thankfully, this season both have made a comeback that’s almost as big as Matthew McConaughey’s, plus a bold tangerine hue. Here, we’ve also helped the floral-print kimono make a much relieved escape from high-waisted denim shorts and festivals. Naturally the final touches lie in a pair of (safe and easy-to-wear) chunky, block heels – ensuring you put your best foot forward in an ensemble that proves most flattering when upright.

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Flaring (in jeans)

Let’s get this out of the way – the flare jean comeback has not been as big as many of us anticipated. If we compare the return of the flare to the launch of the skinny, which saw men and women of all shapes and sizes taking to tapering without prejudice, things look even worse. This season, we’d like to invite you to release your ankles from further affliction and assure you that bell-bottoms, no matter how avid your appetite for showing off your calves, prove a truly feminine and flattering silhouette. The low-cut blouse and strappy stilettos are no new combination, but when added to a pair of flare (yes I did), you’ve got a sexy silhouette with a retro spin.

If you want to go super low-key, flare jeans also fare well with your favourite tee, tucked in, a pair of wedges, sassy attitude and okay, since we’re going all out, a neck scarf.

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Per-suede me!

What’s a 70s style guide without the suede? Just a style guide – at best. Take this fact along with the one about there being “no such a thing as too much suede” and you have a complete retro chic look with the right amount of structure and flow. Here, the kimono style gets a sophisticated, suede update and one that lies safely away from fringed tassels and prints. Fear not for the well-fitted polo neck restores shape to this ensemble, complete with our favourite chunky block heels.

Needless to say, each item can be dressed down on its own. For the suede jacket – think flare jeans and a crop tee; suede mini – short-sleeve button-up and gladiator sandals and the bodysuit – a large, faux fur jacket, rollerblades and a perm. Or did I take it too far? No, because there’s no such thing.

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Palazzo Pants!

If my rendition of “flare jeans are in” still has you unconvinced, palazzo pants are the next and only step in the direction toward your liberation from tights. I’m not sure how and why we ever lost this style for it proves a safe refuge and flattering silhouette for women alike and unlike and like, seriously, the experience is liberating. The all-over print and pastel shade of this pair makes for an easy wear, both up and down. Here, it’s been paired with a crop halter, complete with embroidery detailing and gladiator heels for a complete 70s glam look.

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