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ossie-clark-1970s-fashion-70s-clothing-5_20140503-001338_1.jpgHigh on the list of designers past and present who had, and continue to have, a major impact on fashion, especially on the 1960s and 1970s fashion scene, is Ossie Clark ~ arguably the most gifted British designer of his generation and renowned for his vintage 60s and 70s clothing by present-day designers all over the world. 



As a major figure on the 1960s and 1970s fashion scene and an absolute innovator of those decades’ style, he flew the flag for designs which were smart, beautiful and desirable, producing the most fabulous designs in collaboration with print designer Celia Birtwell. The partnership with Birtwell would last for almost all of Clark's fashion career and in addition to being his undoubted muse (and later, his wife), it was her designs that he used to create his.


When Alice Pollock's exclusive boutique Quorum featured his designs in 1966, Ossie Clark quickly got noticed. Quorum was part of the new London boutique culture. This new and radical retail concept of the ‘boutique’ had a huge impact on the way 1970s fashion was sold ~ and these boutiques, such as Quorum, produced unique and innovative clothing which was often romantic and dreamy while endorsing an identity of individuality, freedom and rebellion which reflected the tastes of the owners and designers alike.


b2ap3_thumbnail_ossie-clark-1970s-fashion-70s-clothing.jpgClark’s design style in the mid 60s was heavily influenced by pop-art, Bridget Riley’s Op-art, David Hockney (whose iconic portrait ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ hangs in London’s Tate Gallery) and Hollywood glamour ~ and he’s undoubtedly renowned for his vintage 70s clothing: exquisite, flowing maxi dresses in fabulous colours and bold flower prints, smocks in chiffon, and sleek halter-neck dresses, bold and pain or in stunning patterns. His love of blissful, muted colours and moss crepe fabric was also well known ~ and adored ~ as was his fondness for Fortuny-style pleats on dresses and coats. (Fortuny was an early 20th century Italian designer, experimental and innovative, who hand-crafted pleats of fine silk which held their shape and flowed on the body. No one has been able to recreate pleating as fine, or dresses that have held their shape so perfectly, for many years. Indeed, Fortuny’s dresses are now seen as skilled works of art ~ as are Clark’s designs ~ and many survive, still pleated, in museums and personal collections all over the world.).


In the late 60s and especially in the early 70s, Ossie Clark hit a rich vein with his flamboyant 60s and 70s clothing. Dubbed "The King Of King's Road", his clients were beautiful and famous and adored his exquisitely tailored and sensual pieces, and Ossie’s list of clients featured such iconic peers as Julie Christie, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Marianne Faithfull, Talitha Getty, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, The Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix ~ to name but a few. He dressed, in the most beautiful and flamboyant 70s clothing, the rich and famous who inhabited the ‘beau monde’ of late 1960s and early 1970s London, while his popularity also extended to New York cool and Paris chic.




b2ap3_thumbnail_ossie-clark-1970s-fashion-70s-clothing-1.jpgIn 1967, Clark presented his first fashion show under the patronage of Radley, a seminal turning point in the history of fashion shows ~ his initial London collection was the first British fashion show to feature black models. In1968 he designed the first of many diffusion lines for Radley. The label ‘Ossie Clark for Radley’ would make his coveted late 60s and early 70s clothing available to a high street clientele and here he found another very appreciative audience who again adored his 70s outfits with as much desire as his couture clientele.


ossie-clark-1970s-fashion-70s-clothing-4.jpgAside from the obvious attraction and desirability of his sought after creations, his genuine appreciation of the female form ~ and an inherent understanding of how women wanted to look and feel ~ gave an enviable yet admired credence to his work and played a huge role in the popularity of his 70s outfits, from his sensual maxi dresses to his languid trouser suits.  His great idol was the famous dancer Nijinsky, and his love of dance inspired his clothes to be free moving and unrestrictive to the female form, a style that became very popular in 1970s fashion thanks largely to the esteem and influence of Clark's clothing.


ossie-clark-1970s-fashion-70s-clothing-3_20140503-002455_1.jpgThe sense of idealism, optimism, innovation, experimentation and revolution, in all spheres of society, and which permeated the 60s and 70s, was enhanced by an explosion of creativity and brilliance, and never more so than in fashion. Changing attitudes gave rise to a new-found sense of freedom as society discovered colour, flamboyance and style which liberated a multitude of groundbreaking fashion trends ~ and which translated into innovative 70s outfits which an eager audience of women craved, wanting something different which reflected their desire for new freedoms. Ossie Clark was among the shining lights of 1960s and 1970s fashion designers who left their mark and their legacy with a glorious imprint of definitive dressing that continues to inspire, excite, innovate and endure. His influence can be seen in collections by Marc Jacobs, Prada, Gucci, Anna Sui, Tom Ford and Manolo Blahnik, to name but a few, and his original and collaborative collections remain highly regarded and desired, while the label and its caché continues to thrive. Clark’s glorious fashions fit the contemporary mould while still evoking a particular style idyll reminiscent of revolutionary fashion shapes that typified the all-conquering ‘swinging London’ scene and, as such, are now more favoured and sought after than ever. Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, among other red carpet celebrities, are among those often seen in his exemplary designs, especially wearing his vintage 70s outfits and vintage evening dresses which are snapped up whenever they are offered for sale, not only to women who want to wear them and feel beautiful, but by collectors as well.


In 2003/04, London’s V&A museum showcased the extraordinary brilliance of Ossie Clark, a designer’s designer who not only dressed the beautiful people beautifully, but whose enduring influence simply can’t be overstated. To quote Judith Watt ~ writer and fashion historian: "He was not just a man of his time...his work stands with the greats”.


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1970s Fashion Designers – Timeless, Innovative, Inspiring...

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 Much of the colourful, casual fashions of the 1970s counterculture was about the relaxed and unstructured styles which embodied the hippie, folk and roots movements and designers such as Thea Porter, Bob Gibb and Missoni contributed to this look. Porter translated her experiences of travelling and multicultural influences into stylish pieces that defined the bohemian essence ~ while Gibb mixed prints, textures, and embellishments with ethnic, medieval and romantic influences to create iconic 1970s fashion with a hippie vibe (the influence of artist and textile designer Kaffe Fassett also inspired the wild use of colour and pattern in Gibb’s designs). Missoni was best known for its unusual knitwear and psychedelic, bold and bright space-dyed weave patterns ~ and although it reached the peak of its fashion influence in the 70s, it continues to be a top designer brand and its iconic zig-zag pattern remains instantly recognisable.


However, it was also a time when other amazing fashion designers came into their own to effect another style revolution ~ more elegant, sexy, sophisticated and cutting edge, but no less central to iconic clothing, 70s shoes, and its embodiment of outstanding fashion design.


The advent of the boutique culture had established the likes of Barbara Hulanicki and Biba ~ stunning, sophisticated designs resulting in fabulous clothing which, in keeping with the times, was romantic, dreamy and inspired by history. Her original designs are now increasingly coveted by fashion collectors and are still, to this day, infinitely wearable and Hulanicki remains synonymous with evocative design, while continuing to collaborate on collections for the high street.



70s-shoes-1970s-fashion.jpgOssie Clark was another very major figure on the scene and an innovator of 1970s fashion who collaborated with print designer Celia Birtwell to produce the most desirable dresses. His design style was influenced by Hollywood glamour ~ exquisite, flowing maxi dresses in fabulous colours and bold flower prints, smocks in light chiffon and halter-neck and tea dresses in stunning patterns. Ghost’s diaphanous gowns are certainly reminiscent of Clark’s pieces and his influence on a raft of modern designers endures, while his vintage designs and collaborative collections remain highly regarded and sought after.


The multi-award winning Oscar de la Renta was already an internationally renowned couturier and having worked for Balenciaga and Lanvin, his success continued throughout the 70s as his elegant red carpet gowns and evening wear became his trademark. His clothing has always been opulent, romantic, extravagant and ornate while his simpler daywear is defined in the detail. One of fashion’s designer heavyweights, his eponymous fashion house continues to dress the great and the good, film stars and royalty.


The sophistication and elegance of 1970s fashion can also be attributed to another list of luminaries whose pioneering styles and contribution to 70s fashion prevails.


Diane von Furstenburg became an icon in 1972 with the creation of her signature jersey wrap dress, a design that launched her career and labelled her ‘the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel’. The elegant yet understated shape flattered all body types and sizes and was suited to daywear as well as becoming a staple of evening and club wear. This landmark in design influenced all dress design by establishing a standard for ease and comfort in women’s clothing and became so popular that in 1997, von Furstenburg relaunched the wrap and it continues to be a classic, elegant yet infinitely wearable ‘must have’.


The eponymous Yves Saint Laurent made trousers an acceptable form of clothing for women ~ for daywear and as glamorous evening wear ~ and the trend became an important and enduring feature within 1970s fashion. Thanks to his revolutionary long and lean look, suits, trousers and the ‘Annie Hall’ style became accepted as part of the female dress code and his shamelessly chic and sexy clothes dovetailed perfectly with feminism's new wave. His suits, slinky tuxedos and straight line dresses still look as modern and as desirable today as they did on their debuts.



70s-shoes-1970s-fashion-05.jpgYves Saint Laurent was also responsible for mainstreaming the idea of wearing and reworking the shapes and silhouettes from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and is credited with beginning to democratise the fashion world by shifting focus from the rarefied and generally unattainable world of haute couture to the relatively more accessible prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) lines.


While other 70s designers created fashion works of art, Bill Blass focused on clean, modern and simply elegant designs which influenced a myriad of other collections and formed the blueprint for classic clothes that are still indisputably fashionable. Influenced by Hollywood inspired-fashions, he concentrated on ease and comfort for the wearer while creating the most chic and beautifully tailored pieces.



Roy Halston Frowick became a definitive designer of the 1970s, with his draped jersey dresses, lean trouser suits and the use of ultra-suede fabric. He was also famous for his evening wear, and the maxi dresses that draped and shimmered in sensuous swathes became synonymous with 1970s fashion almost exclusively because of Halston’s designs.



Music styles such as disco had a huge influence not only on the club scene, but on 70s clothing styles more generally. Halston’s designs were perfect for dancing because of their draped and free-moving construction and his most replicated halter-neck and one shoulder styles were the dresses to be seen in as you shimmied across the dancefloor.70s-shoes-1970s-fashion-01.jpg


The explosion of disco saw a drastic difference in mainstream fashion and created a change which hadn’t been seen since the 1920s. The jumpsuit was popular with both sexes, and clothing inspired by modern dance such as wrap skirts and dresses of rayon and jersey ~ form clinging and sexy yet unrestrictive ~ became de rigueur on the ubiquitous, illuminated dance floors which we all remember from films such as Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Silk neck scarves were a popular accessory while skin tight trousers, tube tops, slit skirts (often worn with leotards), spaghetti straps, silk blouses and shirt-waist dresses helped to work the disco look. Such shapes and styles, created in and defined by the 70s and a scene that epitomised a defining mood and movement, have since become classic and timeless items which have evolved to work as separate pieces to form the foundations of so many designs and effortlessly wearable pieces in the eras which followed.


70s-shoes-1970s-fashion-04.jpgThe glamour and sparkle of 70s elegant evening wear and the sexiness of its sophisticated styling was mirrored in footwear that evoked the 1940s. 70s shoes and boots were influenced by all the best attributes of the 1940s, especially its signature shoe: the platform. This towering triumph of the shoe world featured metallic finishes, stripes, two-tone and cut-out and tooled designs in leather, suede and vintage-inspired velvets.



Towards the end of the decade, footwear fit for the dancefloor also began to echo the 1940s shape of high-heeled, lower-platform mules and stilettos. Indeed, platforms were already making way for ankle-strapped shoes, wedges, clogs, loafers, Oxfords and Mary Janes ~ an assortment of 70s shoes in a fiesta of fabrics, colours and models by innovative designers such as Beth Levine. Levine's greatest influence is considered to be the re-introduction of boots to women’s fashion and the popularisation of mules. New York based shoe designer Fred Braun’s 70s shoes were beautifully made and came in speciality sizes ~ and now have a cult following. And no mention of 70s shoes would be complete without reference to Manolo Blahnik ~ established in the 70s and having designed his first collections for Ossie Clark in the early part of the decade, his London boutique Zapata opened in 1973.


70s-shoes-1970s-fashion-06.jpgA pillar of 1970s fashion royalty, Blahnik has become world famous. His beautiful shoes exude a level of craftsmanship rare in today's age of mass production. His designs have a wonderful sense of line and silhouette and can transform any outfit into a spectacular fashion statement. His talent ensures he shares the mantle worn by other brilliant shoe designers of the 20th century:  Yanturni, Vionnet, Perugia, Ferragamo, and the one Blahnik most admires, Roger Vivier.



b2ap3_thumbnail_70s-shoes-1970s-fashion-08.jpgThe flared ‘disco’ look was gradually replaced by straight, cigarette-legged jeans steered by the influence of punk on fashion, while 70s shoes shaped by the new musical influences included Beatle shoes and the now eponymous and legendary Dr Marten boots.


Vivienne Westwood, who continues to be a major force in design with creations that are outlandish and outré yet breathtakingly beautiful, began her career in the early seventies by making 50s influenced Teddy Boy clothes. By 1972 the designer’s interests had turned to biker clothing, zips, leather and provocative clothing, rebranding her shop ‘Sex’ for the third time in 1974 ~ a shop ‘unlike anything else going on in England at the time’. In 1976, the shop reopened yet again, as Seditionaires, transforming the straps and zips of fetishism into fashion and inspiring
a D.I.Y. aesthetic. Her relationship with Malcolm McLaren created ‘a symbiotic relationship between music and fashion that effectively set the tone of popular culture for decades to come’ and her career continues to flourish with desirable designs that evoke period drama and renaissance while retaining the rebellious spirit that has permeated her always colourful and sometimes controversial career


The 1970s was a nostalgic era that looked to the past for fashion stimulation and drew inspiration from previous eras such as Edwardian, 30s and 40s, while the younger ‘mod’ look was replaced by the glamour and gorgeousness that resembled the red carpet styles of Hollywood movie stars. It’s a decade that still remains relevant to fashion today, with touches of the 70s in nearly every contemporary runway collection.


The shining lights of 70s design left their mark and their legacy with a glorious and beautiful imprint of 1970s fashion and a stampede of 70s shoes that continues to inspire, excite, innovate and endure. In a century of so many changes, innovations and defining moments, the style, sophistication and sexiness of this evocative era will never go out of fashion.


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1970s clothing is often associated with a typical palette of beiges and browns ~ or a number of variations on that theme.  In truth, the sexy, sultry, sensational 70s took up the baton from the trend-setting 60s and continued on a trailblazing trajectory that established 70s clothing as a more fabulous and flamboyant force to be reckoned with, setting the scene for a decade of colour, creativity and bohemian beauty and forging its own style revolution. It also combined some of the best elements that had gone before and perfected and/or exaggerated them for a new generation: 70s fashion was fun!


By the birth of the 70s, the festival scene had taken hold and the bohemian counterculture was thriving. Loose and relaxed clothing ~ such as brightly coloured bursts of clashing prints and patterns, bell bottoms, tunic tops and tie-dye, velvet waistcoats, frills and beads ~ continued to reflect the mood and the music while headbands, scarves and flowers adorned longer, looser, free-flowing hairstyles to complete the look and character of these 70s outfits that charmed and captivated.


70s clothing personified that sustained sense of empowerment and liberation which prevailed with an explosion of bright colours and unstructured fashion that embodied the hippie, folk and roots movements and defined the zeitgeist of this memorable decade.  Wide and wonderful culottes and flares were worn alongside the tightest of trousers and jeans that splayed into fabulous bell-bottoms; t-shirts, tunics, vests and peasant blouses complemented magical maxi dresses, tiered gypsy skirts and vibrant kaftans in a rich riot of colour and vivacity.70s-outfits-70s-clothing-2.jpg 70s outfits which were inspired by an emerging ‘back to nature’, homespun ethos and culture also saw the growing popularity of natural fibres such as cotton and cheesecloth, not just in t-shirts and the like, but increasingly in garments of hand-made crochet of the sweetest summery whites and brightly coloured ‘granny squares’, all contributing to the laid-back and laissez-faire feel of 70s clothing.


b2ap3_thumbnail_70s-outfits-70s-clothing-3.jpgFabulous floral designs, inspirational Indian prints and ethnic patterns enhanced flowing silks and chiffons and sheer, sensual cotton gauze to epitomise the billowing, bohemian feel of endless hot summers, dreamy days and sultry nights. Non-Western inspired clothing with Native American, Asian, Indian, African and Latin American motifs were also popular, due to the religious and cultural diversity espoused by the hippie and folk values and a renewed interest in travelling and exploring,  while the influence of Eastern philosophy and spiritual concepts was seen in a variety of beautiful 70s outfits and prints.



The earlier Indian pilgrimage of the Beatles had, in part, sparked an increased interest in Eastern spirituality and the resulting heritage prints of twisted teardrops, florals, swirls and circles were seen on floaty swathes of sensual silks in clashes of hot and spicy colours, reminiscent of bustling bazaars. Indian colour block prints of psychedelic paisley in the lightest of cotton gauze also adorned dresses, skirts and tunics ~ in muted ethnic colours or in the boldest and brightest kaleidoscopes of mystical shapes and designs.


70s outfits consisted of so many shapes and styles, forged in an era of groundbreaking and daring design. Flares, platforms, tight trousers, maxis, midis, waistcoats, wide collars, pantsuits, tracksuits, flower-patterned dress shirts, have all, in one form or another, evolved to become timeless, classic styles ~ or indeed, have continued to be revived and redesigned for a modern, contemporary outlook which brings the essence of 70s outfits right up to date.


b2ap3_thumbnail_70s-outfits-70s-clothing-90.jpgBut it’s the iconic 70s clothing whose look was distinctive and dreamy, beautifully bohemian, fabulous and floaty with bold, bright
 colours and ethnic influences that captured a moment in time which can never be fully recreated but which will always evoke those sunny, carefree heady days of summers in the city, country roads and seasons in the sun: the smells and the sounds, the heat and the hope, the feel of soft, cool grass under your feet and flowers in your hair ~ ice-cream, idols and immutable, inspirational music buoyed by the flourishing festival scene and the musicians and artists who sought to change the world. 70s clothing will forever resonate with revolutions in art, music and politics and with fashion-forward flamboyance and freedom which came to define an era of inspirational ideology and infinite possibilities.





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