Saturday, November 11, 2006

When Polyester Ruled The Earth! 70s Fashion Fiascos

70s Fashion Fiascos, Collectors Press, 2006


When first 70s Fashion Fiascos: Studio 54 to Saturday Night Fever by Maureen Valdes Marsh crossed my desk, I admit, I screamed in horror. The caftan on the book cover alone was enough to put me in a swoon. But a pleading letter came with it, begging me to give this book my imprimatur.

Look it up.

The letter convinced me to sit down before the fire, Bucky curled in my lap, and skim the pages.

Little did I know that I would be swept up by its contents: a blend of American social history, wit, and truly hideous clothes! Ms. Marsh is a marvelous writer, with a knack for the mot juste. Of leisure suits, she writes, "Color became the key to individuality, and no shade was too effeminate for the 1970s man to wear."

Of course, 70s Vintage Fashion Fiascos is about fashion. As one can guess from the title, it does not mean Fashion In The True Sense. No, it is Fashion Brought Low, Fashion Brought To Its Knees. And not only because women kept falling off their platform shoes. Ms. Valdes knows just how revolting her subjects are (ruffled polyester maxi-dresses, huge plaids, my God, the Unsuit!). Every page is filled with photos, each one more ghastly than the next. And why that horrible fascination with brown??

The author has researched the decade of the 1970s thoroughly, including the sexual liberation movement, The Partridge Family, and of course women's lib. The venerable Barbara Walters is quoted as saying, "I would never wear pants suits on the air...I think the show has more dignity than that." (And now Ms. Walters is working alongside Rosie O'Donnell on The View--how times have changed.) And who knew that it was nurses who managed to bring pantsuits—and pants in general for women—into acceptance in the workplace?

The book is sprinkled throughout with fascinating bits of trivia about the American suburban lifestyle in the 1970s. It was certainly fascinating to moi, as this was my first encounter with what was considered “typical” suburbia…ugh. Since the youth of today has taken a great interest in the clothing of the decade, Ms. Marsh has provided an up-to-date Shopping Resource Guide in the back.

And while this writer (if I may call myself such) simply cannot agree that Pucci and op art have redeeming qualities, this book is well worth the reader's while. It belongs on any bookshelf of those interested in fashion, humor, and of course, the 1970s.

As I gather they used to say, "Can you dig it?"

One can indeed.

Discover more about the book, and the author (who also has a website called Vintage Grace) at this website:

A Footnote:
In her letter, Ms. Marsh said she was certain I had no fashion fiascos in my closet. Flattery, perhaps, but true. However I must make a confession, dear readers.

I have tucked away in my Ebay store a garish nylon robe by Eduardo, a designer who actually studied under Pucci. It has been my secret shame, but now, thanks to Ms. Marsh, I have the courage to unveil it. It is a size Large/Extra Large. And of course, I have many pieces of much finer quality. Please overlook this one lapse. Or purchase it, so that I do not have to look at it any more. (You can find my store in the link on the right, Elisa's Bounteous House of Style.)

Ciao,Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog


Tessa said...

Until I saw your fascinating review I'd forgotten that neck braces were once a fashionable male accessory. Thanks for the flashback!

Maureen said...

Madame Fashionista,

Thank you for taking humble pity on my simple little book and writing about it in your blog. You are indeed the Patron Saint of the Socially Challanged. I am honored you have allowed my wee snipe of a book into your home and blog. I shall mark this day as one of great honor and worth, to be celebrated over and over again, year after year, decade after decade.

Your most humble servant,

Maureen Valdes Marsh

PS - I think your Eduardo robe is simply divine!!

Hoardmeister said...

Dear Ms. Marsh -

Thank you for your lovely may not be on cream-colored stationary, but it is appreciated all the same. I do hope the book sells many, many, many copies! (And I am afraid I will have to disagree with you about the Eduardo robe, but a sou is a sou, n'cest pas?

MoJo said...

After reading your review I just had to buy the book! Being a teen in the 70's I recall and have nightmares about all these fashions. I am sure it will be quite the giggle when it arrives. ;)