The 1970s recreated many classic shirts, tops, and blouses that we still wear today. The printed graphic T-shirt began in the ’70s, creating a new era of casual knitwear. The tunic, bow blouses, and shirt-blouse were for office-wear and dressy occasions. There were shirts and blouses for each major trend, too — mod, western, Victorian, safari, and peasant styles are just the beginning.
All of the below ’70s shirt styles are what the average American woman wore. Let’s dive in and see them in more detail.
The essential blouse of the 1970s continued to be the tunic blouse. First seen in the 1960s, it became even more popular in the 1970s. Tunic shirt blouses were long men’s style button down shirts with a tie belt. The slipover/pullover style also had a tie belt. Both were worn in festive prints, classic patterns, and simple color combinations.
Another 1960s carryover shirt was the cozy mock-neck and turtleneck (roll neck) shirt. Long lengths, a snug fit, and a tight or very loose neck made them essential cool weather shirts, sweaters, and even dresses.
The polo shirt experienced a fashionable revival in the 1970s. They were made of the same snug fitting or slightly looser fit jersey knit fabrics with short sleeves like most other casual shirts, with a button plaquette and collar. The ’70s experimented with double pockets, unique collar shapes, sleeve shapes, contrasting trim, plain but bold colors, and horizontal stripes.
The classic button-down blouse shirt never went out of fashion. As trends shifted to softer, looser, more timeless looks in the late 1970s, so too followed the classic blouse/shirt. They could be dressy or casual with elbow length sleeves, flap shirt pockets, puff shoulders, and traditional point or camp collars. They were always worn tucked into a waistband for a neat appearance.
For working at the office, women were expected to dress conservatively. The casual button down blouse-shirts above would not do. Instead, women wore more feminine long sleeve blouses with their skirts and pantsuits.
The Victorian look was still being made in white blouses — an eternal classic — as well as more trendy colors. Long collars and long cuffs are signatures of early 1970s blouse. Later styles played with new collars, ruffled necks, embroidery, and subtle patterns.
1970s Bow Blouses
Bow blouses became extremely popular with pantsuits and A-line skirts in the last few years of the ’70s. A large, soft necktie was tied into a fluffy bow at the neck, or left tied but not bowed to hang loosely.
Part of the cottage /prairie / western influence led to the return of soft peasant blouses. One of my favorite styles of the ’70s and ’80s, the white peasant blouse was made of light summer fabrics, with a shirred, ruffle, or embroidered neckline. The off-the-shoulder peasant blouse was a particularly fashionable summer top in all colors around 1978-1979.
Western shirts crossed into fashion for city slickers and country dwellers alike. Two pocket shirts with contrast sticking, yokes, plaid, and checks were paired with colored jeans and big belts.
At the end of the decade, the cottage / prairie / Victorian trend combined elements of Western fashion with mainstream looks. Puff-sleeve blouses with string ties, tiered skirts, Western vests and boots — it’s all back again with the Cottagecore aesthetic.
Safari Shirt- Jackets
The traditional men’s bush shirt became part of the safari style worn by both men and women throughout the 1970s. The button-down shirt with four pockets was worn over a knit top, becoming a shirt-jacket. The safari look was also applied to outerwear jackets, soft blouses, jumpsuits, and dresses.
Tank Tops, Halter Tops
In the summer, teens and young women wore knit tank tops, crop tops, halter neck tops, shirred tops, and cropped blouses. There was a lot of variety to the styles.
One thing to note is that unlike today, shorts were high rise, covering the belly button. Therefore, crop tops showed only a little bit of skin.
Almost any blouse or knit shirt style, both casual and dressy, came in a bodysuit version. Women, who were already wearing leotards as workout clothes, found the bodysuit to be the perfect top that stayed neatly tucked into waistbands all day long.
Finally, we look at T-shirts. Until the mid 1970s, any kind of logo, letter, or image printed on T-shirts wasn’t silkscreened but rather iron-on or sewn-on. T-shirts as we know them now were rare. Things changed when improvements in printing made adding logos, brand names, movie titles, TV characters, cartoons, and funny sayings both affordable and trendy.
70s T-shirts fit snug on the body, with short cap sleeves and sometimes a contrasting ringer neck and arm bands. As the decade moved closer to the ’80s, the fit loosened up into what we wear today.
Novelty T-shirts were always being made to promoted the newest brand, band, or character, but non- graphic T-shirts were also trendy. Horizontal stripes had been a classic for many decades already. Rainbow stripes were the favorite pattern in the late ’70s.
The word “T-shirt” was applied to any soft knit women’s shirt, not just the short sleeve classic T-shirt. The ’70s loved T-shirts. Everyone wore them, in every style available.
- What did Women Wear in the 1970s?
- 1920s-1970s Workout Clothes History
- 1960s Tops and Blouses History
- The History of Blue Jeans
- 1970s Disco Fashion
1970s Style Shirts
Vintage 70s shirts, tops, and blouses are highly collectable today. Since all things ’70s fashion have returned in recent years however, there are recreations of 1970s style tops being sold in almost every store. Here are some of our favorites to get you started:
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.