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Talking ’bout a revolution

June 18, 2009

A fabric and dress design revolution that is. Let’s talk about the 1970s- no, stay with me here! Forget about the flares and the polyester and migraine-inducing psychedelic prints. Let’s talk about the rise of the humble knit fabric, and its final acceptance into the fashion mainstream. That’s not to say that knitted fabric was new in the 1970s- even back in the 1920s Chanel was pioneering jersey sportswear, and Gres was pleating silk jersey into beautiful Grecian evening gowns in the 1940s. But for me (although I don’t remember the decade personally) when I think of 1970s fashion, I think of knitted fabrics. The 70s were all about fluid, unstructured, easy living, and the drapey quality of knitted jerseys was a perfect match. Knitted fabric had (and still has) so many advantages- it’s comfortable to wear, relatively inexpensive, and, with a little practice (and using a ballpoint machine needle which won’t snag the fibres of your knit) surprisingly easy to sew. The Paris Original pattern by Lanvin for Vogue below (from around 1973) typifies the easy versatility of 70s fashion- it’s suitable for both woven fabrics and knits such as matte jersey (ie. knits without much stretch that won’t sag):

In 1974 Diane von Furstenberg secured humble knitted jersey’s place in the fashion history hall of fame by designing her legendary wrap dress. According to the Belgian born designer’s website, in 1972 her concept for the contemporary wrap dress began as a cotton jersey shirt dress similar to a wrapped dancer’s sweater. A few years later, in 1974, the shirt prototype was elongated into the garment commonly known as the wrap dress.  Vogue brought out the pattern at the top of this post, enabling home sewers everywhere to create their own version at a fraction of the price of the original dress. Von Furstenberg’s revolutionary design earned her a place in fashion history, and made comfortable powerful dressing accessible for a generation of women. On the back of the envelope flap of this pattern, she encourages women to “feel like a woman, wear a dress”:

(Both patterns are now up for sale in my Etsy store, along with the 1940s bathing suit pattern I blogged here. Click on the images for the listings.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 19, 2009 6:54 pm

    What a great education in fashion your blog is : ) I love that full length spotted black dress, mmm.

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