1970s Fashion Silhouettes

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The 1970s were a very diverse and creative time for fashion. Men and women alike became more experimental in the clothes they wore for work and for play. A garment's silhouette often helps to define it and place it in a specific time. However, some popular silhouettes of the 1970s still appear in clothing trends decades later.


Maxi dresses and skirts were at the height of popularity by the mid-1970s. Maxi dresses reached the floor or just above the floor. They were very comfortable, often dropping straight and loose from the waist. They were not flowing or full like long dresses of earlier eras or like formal gowns. Maxi dresses remain popular as of 2011.


Midi-length skirts and dresses were a transition piece between mini and maxi skirts and dresses. The midi hemline landed just below the knee. Straight-cut midi pieces were staples for working women in the '70s. Midi skirts cut in the traditional A-line silhouette, branching out from the hips, also were popular in the mid-1970s, especially for parties or formal occasions.


The flared silhouette was perhaps the most common image associated with fashion of the 1970s. With the arrival of the disco era, jeans and cotton pants that flared out from the knee became very popular with both men and women. Bellbottoms are pants that flare into the shape of a bell at the bottom.

Empire Waist

The empire waist silhouette was popular in the '70s and remains popular. The empire waist is high, usually right under the bust, and the dress or blouse flows out from there. Empire waist pieces were popular with the flower child or hippie movement of the 1970s, representing a relaxed and carefree lifestyle. But it also made its way into formal dresses of the era.