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maxi dress
Maxi dresses in silk, like this from Parker, and fabrics that drape the body are popular 70s styles that are making a comeback this season.
photo: Renee Sprink Photography

The 70s are back

Retro fashions are in style this season

by Julie Jennings


The 1970s celebrated women’s independence, which was influenced in part by the invention of the birth control pill. Free from pregnancy worries, women began enjoying the same sexual freedoms as men.


During this disco decade, Studio 54 was a hot spot for the fashion crowd, which included Diane von Furstenberg. Her iconic wrap dress even became the unofficial symbol of sexual freedom because it was so easy to take off.


Fast forward to spring 2011, and the sophisticated, independent woman has arrived via a bold palette of colors and sleek styling. The 70s are back, with a modern edge. Forget shoulder pads, tailored blazers and poofy dresses, and think maxi dresses in silk and fabrics that drape the body.


What’s old is new

Studio 54 keeps coming up in recent fashion blogs, and designers and editors are paying attention. Style icons of the 70s like Bianca Jagger wore voluminous dresses and platforms. They celebrated their independence by dressing boldly. Low necklines and high slits were not uncommon.


For today’s women, these trends translate perfectly for spring. Maxi dresses in sleek fabrics and bright colors are the ideal look for a spring dinner. And don’t be afraid to load up on jewelry — big bangles are an easy way to get a great look. Chunky earrings and long necklaces also can add interest to any outfit.


As a child of the 70s, I remember rummaging through my mother’s drawers for her costume jewelry. There were loads of bracelets, hoop earrings and large cocktail rings. I also loved the bright prints that were hanging in her closet. She had the craziest jumpsuits and long dresses. My sister and I would play dress up when our mom was at work, and I remember looking at myself in the mirror, thinking how sophisticated I looked.


Today’s updated looks will make you feel sophisticated as well. Your skinny jeans will need to give way to the high-waisted ones that’ll be hanging on the racks in stores this season. Try Angie Super Flare jeans by Citizens of Humanity. The flare is exaggerated but not to the point that you’ll be tripping down the street, the high waist is flattering and the flare makes your legs look thinner.


If a high-waisted, wide-leg pant isn’t your thing, then try some platforms. They’re much easier to walk in than stilettos, and platform sandals in particular are versatile. They give you height, which is necessary to pull off the attitude of rebellious independence mixed with a dose of sexuality.


Celebrate this season with bright colors and new styles. Try some silhouettes that are outside of your comfort zone. Throw on some bangles, big earrings and beads. Have some fun this spring! 


Julie Jennings is owner of Uniquities, a Triangle boutique specializing in contemporary women’s fashions, emerging designers and denim. Uniquities has locations in downtown Chapel Hill, Cameron Village and North Hills in Raleigh, and West Main Street in Durham. To learn more, e-mail or visit