The Female Form Through Time — Women’s Skirts in the 1970s

By Helen Vasey, Assistant Keeper of History, Discovery Museum

In our Google Arts & Culture exhibition ‘The Female Form Through Time’ we look at how women’s silhouettes have changed from the Victorian period to the end of the 20th century.

Here we will take a closer look at the variety and choice of styles that emerged in the 1970s, and in particular the length of women’s skirts.

The mini-skirt continued to be popular into the 1970s. Mini-dresses were often shift dresses and not very fitted, to give a youthful figure.

Coat dating to the early 1970s made by Bus Stop — TWCMS : J2387a (left) and mini dress, 1970s — TWCMS : J3901a (right)

However, a new trend emerged in the late 1960s that was the polar opposite to the mini — the maxi-dress. This was often loose fitting, with an empire waist, meaning, the waist seam is just below the bust, and floor length. This trend came across from America and in particular the hippy movement in California.

Evening dress dating to 1970 designed by John Bates — TWCMS : 2010.4063

A third option was introduced to fashionable women in the 1970s — the midi. This was a just-below knee length skirt or dress. Often this type of dress was more fitted, with wrap around dress and shirt waisters being popular.

Lee Bender dress dating to the mid- 1970s — TWCMS : 1994.759

Women were now more able to choose the styles and lengths that suited their body, rather than having to fit their body into whatever was fashionable at the time.

Find out more about how, and why, women’s silhouettes have changed over time in our upcoming online exhibition here.

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