Fashion & StylePublished August 24, 2011
Look Back in Envy: The ’70s Take the Runway
By RUTH LA FERLA
ON “The Marc and Myra Show,” on SiriusXM radio, the writer Bob Colacello recalled visiting Studio 54 in the 1970s when Yves Saint Laurent strolled into the room. Halston, on glimpsing his idol, sprang from his chair to embrace him. Taking in the scene, Truman Capote was heard to tell a companion: “You have just witnessed one of the great moments in the history of fashion. That is, if you care about the history of fashion.”
That history reverberates today well beyond the confines of fashion, in theatrical revivals like “Follies,” the 1971 Sondheim hit, which opens on Broadway next month; in radio broadcasts like “Marc and Myra”; and in new coffee-table volumes like “Idols,” a compilation of portraits by Gilles Larrain of the flamboyant artists and scene-makers of the time.
But the 1970s resonate most insistently on fashion runways, through a proliferation of languid fall looks inspired by the greatest hits of Halston and Saint Laurent, as well as those of style-world luminaries like Sonia Rykiel, Rosita and Ottavio Missoni, Claude Montana and Karl Lagerfeld, whose fluid dresses for the house of Chloé are still being emulated. There were catwalk nods as well to a gallery of outsize personalities — Bianca Jagger, Faye Dunaway, Jacqueline Onassis in her Isle of Capri period, and Berry and Marisa Berenson, among them — whose slinky wardrobes and gadabout ways have been lavishly
The ’70s have been revisited time and again in more recent decades, but not with the conviction demonstrated on the runways of late. Frida Giannini of Gucci, Stefano Pilati of Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Massimiliano Giornetti of Ferragamo and Michael Kors were but a handful of designers to invoke the era of floppy-bow dresses, chubby furs and slouchy hats, flared pants and slithery maxi-skirts, intent, it seemed, on returning to a period of originality and unfettered hedonism.
Described by the writer Alicia Drake in “The Beautiful Fall,” a chronicle of the day, as an era of debauchery “sans consequence,” the ’70s strike a romantic chord. People of that era were extreme, “but there was magic in their extravagance,” Marian McEvoy, a fashion editor in Paris at the time, told The New York Times in 2006, soon after the book appeared. Colleen Sherin, the fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, suggested that younger people now may be looking back in envy on a storied generation of globetrotters and unregenerate party animals.
From a current vantage, “people in the ’70s seemed a little more care-free, a little less complicated,” said Tory Burch, whose fall collection abounded with period references, including a tuxedo reminiscent of the influential Saint Laurent “smoking,” a look her mother wore. The ’70s were years “when women were coming into their own,” Ms. Burch said. “They were a little freer in the way they dressed and lived their lives. I wanted to celebrate that.”