As the turbulent sixties transitioned into the “Me” decade, American teens began to express themselves in ways that were as bold and transformative as the cultural and social changes they were experiencing.
This unique era marked a departure from the homogeneity of previous decades, and teenagers, in particular, began to adopt a more individualistic approach to their wardrobes.
70s teenage fashion reflected the individualistic mood of the era
Some of the iconic styles and trends that defined this decade include the bell-bottoms revolution and the lingering aesthetic of the hippie movement — not to mention disco-influenced glamour and the advent of punk later in the decade.
While these styles may seem wildly disparate, collectively they reflect a time of fashion innovation and self-expression in response to the shifting social landscape. Take a peek below at how 70s teenage fashion helped shape styles as we know them today.
1970s teenage fashion: Teenage girls spend a mint on fashionable clothing (1973)
The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) – Monday, March 26, 1973
Before teenage girls cracked a book last September, they spent a total of more than $3 billion in 60 days.
Their favorite purchases were dresses, pants and footwear, for which they spent more than $330 million each, according to the latest editions of Seventeen Magazine’s annual surveys, “High School Study” and “College Freshman Study,” in August and September — which account for more buying than any other time.
Their shopping sprees included everything from coats ($275.3 million) jackets ($130.7 million) and tops ($299.3 million) to foundations ($113.9 million), hosiery ($111 million) and active sportswear ($81.6 million).
The large percentage increases in money spent on jackets, blouses, sweaters, pants and dresses show that teenage girls’ buying is heavily influenced by what’s new in fashion. Expenditures for shirts and blouses were up 48% to $136.4 million, jackets increased 37% to $130.7 million, sweaters grew 17% to $162.9 million, pants increased 10% to $333.3 million, and dresses were up 8% to $330.9 million.
The figures also show that girls do not live their pants life by blue jeans alone. They buy everything from bellbottoms and straight-legs to knickers and hot pants — and have found a new love: cuffed pants. While in 1971 only 4% of the girls bought cuffed pants, in 1972, 19% of the college freshmen and 27% of the high school girls went for trousers with cuffs.
Trendy styles for her from 1970
Mushroom print pants, crocheted vest, black jeans with white dots, stretch lace shirt, and a floral print blouse (ad features Charlie’s Angels actress/model Shelley Hack.)
Summery 1970 separates for juniors: Skirts, pants, tunics, halter tops and dresses
Retro juniors fall coats from 1970
Summer skirts, shorts, vests, and shirts – 70s teenage fashion (1970)
70s teenage fashion: Cool grape and icy white skirts, dresses, shirts and pants
Groovy dresses from 1970
70s teenage fashion: Retro collared dresses and pleated skirts for juniors (1972)
Retro juniors knit sleeveless and short-sleeve dresses from 1970
70s teenage fashion: Striped and tie-dye jeans
Vintage juniors separates in yellow, black and white (1972)
Frontier-style dresses from the 1970s (1971)
70s teenage fashion: Crochet kits to make folklore-look skirts, tunics, and a babushka (1971)
Sportswear for women (1971)
Colored jeans and slim tops – 70s teenage fashion (1972)
Tartan plaid for young women
Black and red plaid separates and coordinated tops
70s teenage fashion: Classic contemporary Juniors dresses
Fortrel polyester doubleknit dresses for juniors
Trendy dresses for teens (1972)
Vintage juniors dresses and skirts plus suede ghillie tie-heeled shoes (1972)
1970s teenage fashion corduroy flared pants and trendy retro tops
1972 cotton corduroy jeans and turtleneck tops
1972 sweater knits – tops, dresses, skirts, and pants
1970s teenage fashion: Brushed cotton denim jeans with sailor buttons plus shirts with vests
Colorful denim pants and bodysuit shirts
Retro juniors jeans for women and slim-fit tops
Long skirts and maxi-dresses for juniors (1972)
Sears Junior’s jeans shop styles and long-sleeve bodysuits
Fall juniors fashions: Separates lead the bright life
Heather separates and prints shirts
Juniors skirts, sweaters, and pantyhose
Retro knit sweaters, skirts, and pants
DON’T MISS THIS: Vintage 70s prom dresses were a feminine fusion of bohemian & chic
Plaid shirt, patch-pocket corduroy jeans, seamed knee jeans, jacquard knit t-shirt
Vintage 70s gold and navy sweater, knit pants, and a crocheted cap (1972)
Jacquard patterned pullover in gold and navy with elastic-waist polyester pants
Plaid clothing separates for teen girls
Juniors brushed cotton denim jeans and zingy tops
Juniors fashions for teens: Pretty, young styles (1973)
Dresses from JC Penney with ruffled flounces, ribbon and lace trim, smocked midriff
Juniors dresses for teens with short skirts
Smock dresses for 1960s juniors
Dacron polyester A-line and sailor collar retro dresses
Long and short dresses
Cute retro 2-piece outfits
Spring and summer retro clothing for juniors and teens
Trendy tops and trouser pants – Retro clothing
Dacron knit dresses for juniors – Short skirts
Juniors mix and match spring knits in green and yellow
Pastel coordinates from Sears – Blue and pink with white clothes for juniors
Polyester knit dresses – Coatdress, A-line, 2-piece dress
Colorful polyester knit separates – Casual clothes for teenagers
Juniors short dresses
Cool tops and halters for teens and denim shorts for juniors
Blue plaid boy cut jeans USA
Boy-cut jeans for women (1973)
Boy-cut retro 70s jeans for juniors
Casual tops & boy cut jeans (plus Kim Basinger!)
Low-slung flared-out double-knit and gabardine pants paired with body-hugging tops
Wide-cuffed trousers, seersucker plaid blazer, and corduroy flares from 1973
Solid-pink-polyester-knits: Tops, skirts and pants
Seersucker fashions for teens (1973)
Juniors jackets for ’73: Short ones & classic blazers
Wet-look jackets and nylon cire rain slickers at Penney’s
Retro 1970s polyester knits for her: Navy, white and red
Vintage bare and basic body suits: plain, gingham and lace (1973)
Sporty knit bodysuits & collared onesies for women
Juniors pastel pants – 70s fashion for women
Juniors fashions for teens in 1973
The surveys also herald the end of the braless craze. In 1972, teenage girls spent $113.9 million on foundations — an increase of 20% over the year before. This is aside from the $92.5 million spent on, underthings and $84.4 million for sleepwear.
Footwear, on which girls spent $336.2 million, showed a trend away from boots and moccasin-type shoes. The impact of fashion showed up in an increase in dressy shoes with heels rather than flats, and in more sandals, thongs and clogs. College freshman girls showed their sophistication by buying wedges and platforms.
Teenage girls accented their fashion with accessories, to the tune of $131 million. That included everything from belts, handbags and wallets to sunglasses, scarves and costume jewelry.
Both surveys were conducted nationally by Gilbert Youth Research, which personally interviewed 1,713 girls ages 14-17 for the High School Study, and 1,640 college freshman girls from 50 states attending 36 colleges for the College Freshman Study.
Double-knit stretch polyester pants from 1974
Retro polyester pants with matching horizontal striped turtleneck shirts (1974)
Vintage 1970s bodysuits and polyester doubleknit pants for women and juniors (1977)
1970s classic jeans and tops – Boy-cut jeans, Western-style jacket, striped big tops (1976)
Vintage corduroy jeans, turtleneck, and cardigan sweaters (1976)
NOW SEE THIS: Bold 1970s swimwear for women rocked the beach scene