Thursday, September 9, 2010

Delightful Discoveries - The Me Decade of the 1970s 09.09.10

Who was Tom Wolfe anyway? Well, in addition to being the only person who came up with a nickname for the decade of the 1970s, he was a journalist and the author of such classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and Bonfire of the Vanities. It appears that everyone else was too wrapped up in their own issues to even come up with a label for the decade, so maybe he had something!

The 70s were my "coming of age" decade since I went from Barbie Dolls to motherhood over the course of these 10 years. "The Me Generation?" Perhaps, but not necessarily with all of the negative, self-serving connotations that seem to have come along with that label. If the 60s had taught everyone to question the Establishment, the 70's gave us the impetus to realize that we not only had control of our own destinies, we had a say in how much we needed to blindly accept. I think that maybe, the Decade of Self-Awakening would be a better label. It seems like we questioned everything and everyone. Our parents, our government, God...we didn't just want to learn about what was happening in the world around us, but we wanted to know why and maybe more than anything, we wanted to be in control - if not on a grand scale, at least in the clothes we wore, the personal choices we made, and the lifestyles we led...and as in so many other situations where new found freedom appears, keeping freedom balanced with responsibility could be hard to do. Our generation believed, to a large degree encouraged by seeing the older generation living a very expanded American dream, that it was our right to reap immediate benefits. We were impatient, expecting immediate remedies to situations we perceived as detrimental to achieving our dreams.

Politically, the 70s were a decade of contrasts. Political dissatisfaction would create a crisis of confidence in national government, contributing to social and moral decline and ultimately economical decline as the job market stagnated and inflation grew. Although initially lauded for bringing an end to US involvement in the Vietnam War by withdrawing US troops in 1973, a year later, amidst the Watergate Scandal, President Nixon would make history as the only US president to resign his office on August 9, 1974. His presidential running mate/vice president Spiro Agnew, had resigned his office a year earlier on the heels of an investigation into alleged income tax evasion. President Nixon would select Agnew's replacement under the 25th constitutional amendment's laws of succession with a congressman from Michigan, Gerald Ford. That amendment would prove once again important when President Nixon resigned and for the first and only time in US history, a man who was never elected to the office of vice president or president, would become president. Gerald Ford would take over the reigns of the country, but would lose a bid for the presidency in 1976 to an unassuming peanut farming governor from Georgia... Jimmy Carter.

The early years of the decade saw a dying out of the hippie rebellion with its trademark reactionary rock music. The "Sound of Philadelphia" would give way to a new fad that would become popular among young people - Disco. Glittery mirrored disco balls reflected the colorful and elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the disco beat in night clubs, while the walls reverberated to the extensive use of percussion and horns that dominated disco music style. Line dancing, in its many iterations of the Hustle including the LA Hustle, the Bus Stop, and the Night Fever Hustle, would become one of young America's favorite way to "boogie down". Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Barry White, KC and the Sunshine Band, the Jackson, Gloria Gaynor, the Village People, and Chic were just a few of the chart topping Disco acts, while "hard rock" bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, and the Rolling Stones dominated their niche. The early 70s also saw the break up of the Beatles, with each of them going on to solo careers. Their early music's influence on pop remained strong throughout the 70's with "soft rock/pop" and songs from performers like Jim Croce, Abba, Barry Manilow, Chicago, Elton John, Billy Joel, and Fleetwood Mac, dominated pop charts. Crossover acts produced music appealing to multiple audiences. Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, and the Commodores, among others, provided a mix of funk, R&B, and pop, while country-rock and country-pop were coming into their own with groups like Lynard Skynard, the Allman Brothers, and solo artists like John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Marie Osmond appealed to both country and rock/pop fans.

Fashions were diverse throughout the decade. The hot pants and scooter skirt minis that dominated the very early years gave way to midi skirts and even maxi skirts - adding credence to the belief that as the economic mood goes, so goes skirt length... the higher the confidence in the economy, the shorter the skirts; the lower the confidence, the longer the skirts. I guess a lot of people were very ambivalent because I remember having a coat that I could unzip the bottom sections off of to transform it from a maxi to a midi, to a mini! Elephant bell bottoms, hip huggers, and tie-dye gave way to the polyester 3-piece and leisure suits, as well as quiana shirts for men, and high waisted pants and ethnic peasant or prairie boho fashions for women. Platform shoes came into vogue during the disco craze, and by the end of the decade, unisex was back in style in a different way when women started wearing layered suits a' la Annie Hall.

On TV, we saw the debut of shows like Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street, Happy Days, Donnie and Marie, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Charlie's Angels, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Barney Miller, and Taxi. The Brady Bunch would give us "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha," Jimmie "JJ" Walker taught us all about things being "Dyn-O-Mite" on The Good Times, love would be exciting and new aboard The Love Boat, and Tattoo would excitedly announce "ze plane, ze plane" at the start of our weekly trip to Fantasy Island. The 70's also gave birth to the big screen "blockbuster" as well as a host of hugely successful movies and sequels, among them - The Godfather, Jaws, Love Story, American Graffiti, A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Blazing Saddles, Rocky, Apocalypse Now, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Halloween, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, The Blues Brothers, and Animal House.

Other pop culture fads were pet rocks, pop rocks, smiley faces, 8-tracks, EST, transcendental meditation, toga parties, Farrah Fawcett and Dorothy Hamill haircuts for women, afros and mullets for men, streaking (and I don't mean hair!), banana seats, Mr Whipple, mood rings, Cabbage Patch Kids, mountain bikes, macrame, mushrooms, velvet chokers, cassette recorders,lava lamps, black light posters, tube tops, string bikinis, Hollie Hobbie, Betsey Clark, clogs, aviator frame glasses, handkerchief halter tops; rock operas like Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar; Love is..., earth shoes, CB radios, shag rugs, and Shrinky Dinks.

Technology saw the debut of the microprocessor and fiberoptics, and the Walkman, VCR's (at an introductory cost of a mere $1400), microwave ovens for the home, the Atari 2600, and the Apple II computer were introduced to the public at large. By the way, that computer had a whopping 48K of RAM and a price tag of over $2600. In the field of medicine, CT scanners were introduced, and the use of ultrasound in obstetrics became accepted practice. Vaccines for rubella, pneumonia, and chicken pox were developed and the Heimlich Maneuver became a quick way to prevent choking to death.(Anti-technology also produced a few not so great cars - like the Gremlin, the Pinto, and the Pacer!)

Many notable events took place during this decade including the Kent State riots (1970), the OPEC oil embargo and gas rationing, Nixon's visit to China in '73 (the first time an American president had visited this communist country), the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 summer Olympics, Roe Vs. Wade (1973), America celebrates its Bicentennial (1976), Roots premiers on TV (1977), the birth of the first test tube baby (1978), the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and hostage crisis in Iran (1979). Cigarette ads were banned on TV, Disney World opened in Florida, and 6 years after it's launch, the space station Skylab, re-entered the earth's atmosphere in 1979.

We also lost a lot of great and talented lives during the 70s, many gone way too soon: Elvis Presley (42); Jimi Hendrix (27), Janis Joplin (27), Freddie Prinze (22); John Wayne (72); Jim Morrison (27); Louis Armstrong (71); Roberto Clemente (38); Lyndon B. Johnson (64);
Mr Ed (19 in human years, ? in horse years); Betty Grable (56); Bruce Lee (32); Ed Sullivan (73); Jack Benny (80); Agatha Christie (85); Sal Mineo (37); Charlie Chaplin (88); Pope Paul VI (80); and Pope John Paul I (65).

Once again, there is so much more to the 70s than I could possibly mention here, but to try to put 10 years of dynamic change into a few paragraphs isn't the easiest thing in the world. I'd love to hear about the things you recall from the 70s (if you were around)! Here are some of the great things from Etsy that will hopefully will bring back some great memories of this unique decade! Enjoy :)

I'm mixing it up a bit and starting out with the knick-knacks and things you might find around a typical home in the 70's!

(l-r, top to bottom)
Vintage Holly Hobbie Plate 1972 Collectors Edition from vintagemimosette
1970's Yellow SMILEY FACE Glass from jenzee09
Vintage Love is Patch Comic Couple from VintageFunland
L-O-V-E Bank from northbrooklyndrygood
Vintage Pet Rocks from BountifulGoods
RARE Vintage A Little Book of Friendship Betsey Clark 1974 from vintagenowandthen
Wood n Metal Merry Mushroom Vintage Cheese Board Tray or Trivet with Matching Shakers 1976 from MelodysUnchained

Men's fashions were varied throughout the 70's - but a few things were staples in any young man's wardrobe.

(l-r, top to bottom)
2 Piece Men's Sky Blue Leisure Suit from SarisaVintage
70s Vintage Nylon Disco Novelty Shirt from BettesBargains
Vintage 1970s LEVIS DENIM jacket from fluffypinkbunnies
1970s -Time Out by Farah- Mens Two Piece Leisure Suit WITH FREE MENS SHIRT from differentHues
Vintage 1970's Mork and Mindy Rainbow Suspenders from revivalvintage
Original 70s Kalso Vintage Earth Shoes from SilverseedNation
Vintage Aviator Sunglasses by Foster Grant from vintagenowandthen

Last but not least, the fashions and accessories that I grew up with...

(l-r, top to bottom)
70s Plaid Ruffle Western Prairie Shirt from classicgirlvintage
Vintage 1970's WIDE FLARE Blue and Black CORDUROY Lee Pants from scarletbirdvintage
70's Floral Hippie Crop Top from StylinRecyclin
Vintage 70s NWT denim jeans from vintagestew
70s Sea Green Bell Sleeve Floral Cotton Blouse from classicgirlvintage
Vintage 70's Yellow FLORAL Print LAYERED RUFFLE Tiered MAXI Dress from DollyrockerVintage
Vintage (VTG) Womens- 1970 70s- Silk Jumpsuit from SalonMystique
Vintage 70's puff sleeve FLORAL peplum blouse shirt from RockyMountainRetro
Vintage 70s Romantic Ivory and Violet Gunne Sax Dress from penelopepupsvintage
Dancing Queen Vintage 70s Ethnic Boho Rainbow Black Butterfly Pantsuit from wickedweeotch
(I actually owned 4 pieces exactly like those above - can you guess which ones?)

(l-r, top to bottom)
70s Canvas Navy Blue Floppy Sun Hat from ReduxDelux
PUMPKIN SPICE Vintage 70's Kinney PLATFORM CLOGS from FastEddiesRetroRags
DHARMA Vintage NOS MACRAME Crochet Wood BEAD Hippie Boho FRINGE BELT from LolitaVintage
BEADED MACRAME 70s Fringed Hippie Bag from luckyvintageseattle
Vtg Rust Orange Suede Wedges from OldBaltimoreVintage
Vintage CHARLOTTE Floppy Straw Hat from graybirdvintage
Vintage 70s Wooden Platform Woven Leather Sandals from santokivintage
70's Biker Girl Fringed Leather Shoulder Bag from thegreedyseagull
Vintage 1971 Small PLAIN MOOD Ring HARD TO FIND adjustable from therpsajik
(I also owned 4 of these as a teen - are you up to guessing which ones?)

Wouldn't feel right leaving out the Disco days and Annie Hall looks... Here's what we were wearing!

(l-r, top to bottom)
1970s Vintage Two Piece Disco Dress with Full Skirt for Dancing from anything70s
70's green vintage dress with chevron stripes from FrenchNavyVintage **
Vintage 70s Brown Swirled Turtleneck Disco Dress from HepCatClothes
1970's White Linen Suit from recollectionclothing
Vintage 70s Sewing Pattern McCalls 5279 Designer DD Dominick Annie Hall Look from sandritocat
AUTUMN SUNLIGHT Vintage Cowl Neck Top from Vintageus
(ok, I think I had one of each of these, except the linen suit!)

Well, another decade down and one to go... do you remember the 80's? We'll see how well you remember them when I post my last walk down memory lane tomorrow. Please feel free to join in on the fun with your favorite vintage 80's item listing - you can send it to me by clicking here for the submission form to e-mail me the link to the page of the shop where I can see your items or your favorites from another shop.

I'll catch you on the flip side!

**designates an undiscovered/underdiscovered shop!


Salon Mystique said...

Groovy Post :)

Jennifer said...

Wonderful article. Even though I was only a little girl, alot of things you discussed brought back some very fond memories!

ViKotas said...

My oh compressed a whole lot into a little space. As for me, I could never get enough fringe, and I always hated leisure suits. Since I was an avid "sewer" I made myself lots of 'loud' and colorful clothing. I still have a pair of exquisitely patched jeans.
Oh, and weekends in Greenwich Village.
Okay.....back to the present

wannaberaw said...

Great blog! Thanks for including a few of my vintage pieces from the Classic Girl Vintage etsy shop!


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