Women's Pantsuits in The Polyester Decade
Above: 1970s hit show Charlie's Angels. The angels looking fab in menswear inspired outfits.
After the carefree attitude of the 60s, the 70s came in looking to bring back some order! So-called 'man-tailored' pant-suits for women were making it big at a time when women were joining the workforce in droves and becoming more independent. But it was all about comfort. Elasticated pant waists were huge and practicality was key. Women wanted to be taken seriously and they could do it affordably with polyester doing it's best to imitate wool.
Women's Liberation loosened the structures of uncomfortable undergarments and womenswear in general. Pants for women had only really been considered acceptable when worn around the house. Finally being able to wear them outside in the 70s marked a shift in attitude towards women’s fashion. Pantsuits became common business attire for women and were paired with button-down shirts with large, pointy collars, and masculine jackets.
Design houses had gotten used to spending the bulk of their time creating clothing for women who were at home or at parties; not in the office. But times were certainly changing and the most successful designers saw this opportunity for a new market. They adapted and capitalized.
The 1970s introduced androgyny to fashion. Looking at photographs of people in the 1970s, you can see that men and women often sported very similar styles.
Above: Bianca Jagger in two of her many amazing 1970s suit looks.
In 1974, Bianca Jagger wore a white tuxedo by Halston to Studio 54. The look was not dissimilar to Yves Saint Laurent’s 1966 Le Smoking suit, and trousers became increasingly acceptable for both formal wear and work wear. New patterns, such as animal print, made them all the more glamorous.
But the ones who really made the man-tailored look chic, both on and offstage, were the film stars of the ’30s, especially Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn. The 70s were dipping back into this aesthetic and making it mainstream.
Above: Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Annie Hall, 1977.
Movies like Annie Hall fought gender ideals by portraying a woman who wore men's clothing on the daily basis. Diane Keaton’s role and wardrobe inspired a new look for the office. The era of women’s pantsuits, although not new, exploded on the market. Man-tailored blazers were worn over a vest and pussy bow tie blouse with wide trousers and pointy toe boots. Adding to it men’s-style button-down dress shirts, matching suit vests, big hats, flat shoes, and glasses; the look became a new style for intelligent yet trendy women everywhere.
In the early years, blazers contrasted the pants and blouse with bold plaids and checks. Towards the end, they matched into one uniform suit and came in traditional men’s suiting material and patterns such as pinstripe. Contrasting blazers and pants sets rounded at the end of the decade, beginning the powersuit revolution of the 1980s.
We loaded a fresh batch of deadstock women's 1970s pantsuits into the store this week. There are a range of patterns, prints and colours to choose from. Hop on this classic 70s trend and be a boss in the office and elsewhere!
Check out our collection HERE to see our women's suits and sets.