Feathercuts & Flares: An Exhibition of Fashion from the Seventies

As the music of the seventies has been recently highlighted, thanks to the amazing BBC6 radio slots and accompanying BBC4 Punk Britannia programmes, so has an interest in seventies fashion reemerged. Being a child of the seventies myself, it is hard to imagine now the impact that going from straight legged trousers to wide legged flares had on people around us in those days; you really were making a conscious fashion statement with what you put on your body. You associated yourself with a particular style of music, whether it be punk, mod, hippy, or Americana, and you got your identity quickly with clothing, which as a teenager was of vital importance. The best thing about the seventies was that it has nothing to do with aping icons or labels, it was all about creativity and making your own stamp on a fashion framework that was set out for you. So if you wanted to wear flares, you adorned them with your own patchworks or flowers, if you happened to be a punk, you ripped your own tee shirts and stitched them up with safety pins. The seventies were a mismatch of fashion genres that both complimented and contrasted with each other. On one hand you had the hippy era which would not go away, and then in stormed punk that blew the establishment to bits. This exhibition entitled Feathercuts & Flares, takes us through the whole of the seventies, from the origins of early glam rock, to the buttoned down house wife look of Laura Ashley.

The 1970s have been referred to as “the decade that style forgot.” Maybe it was, but it seemed at the time that nobody really cared, as fashion designers started to have some fun and ‘anything goes’ was the order of the day. During that decade, Britain experienced social and political upheaval: economic troubles, strikes, power-cuts and terrorism. In reaction to these problems fashion went crazy. Flared trousers, platform shoes, jackets and shirts with enormous collars and lapels, many in conflicting colour schemes and patterns, were all popular. Skirt lengths changed quickly from short to long and back to short again, but there were also plenty of trouser styles for women to wear. Fashion took its influence from many sources; Glam Rock, Disco, Punk and New Wave all spilled into the high street. Clothes became more shiny and sparkly for a time. Platforms got higher and tartan was popularised by the Bay City Rollers and later by Punks. Nostalgia for fashions from the 1920s and 1930s led to a revival of those styles but with a new twist for the 1970s.

And it wasn’t just the clothes that were elaborate. Hairstyles and facial hair for men all grew in size. To start with, hair was worn long and layered by both men and women. The Feather-cut, Afro, Flick and Wedge were all popular in their time. Men’s beards, moustaches and large sideburns were very common early in the decade. The 1970s did have style, much of it unforgettable it seems, as its constant revival in today’s fashions is still clear for all to see. The many displays in the Craft and Design Gallery highlights the original fashions of the 1970s, currently enjoying a revival on the high street. You can discover some of the most influential ‘looks’ of that decade, from the simple country styles of Laura Ashley, through the sophisticated evening wear of John Bates, to the glamour of disco. The exhibition runs from 14 October 2011 with the end date to be confirmed and admission is free. For more information visit the Walker Gallery website.

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