70s Retro: Worship and Extension


Through the hustle and bustle of the London Underground, and the straight-laced efficiency of central Berlin, emerges a crowd of idealistic individuals eager to rebel against the norm – wide-eyed and ready to break traditional interpretations of what defines ‘fashion’. Following 2015’s strong minimalistic vibes, the latter end of 2016 saw the resurgence of brighter, bolder forms. This trend safari will identify notable ‘retro’ stylings found on the streets of London and Berlin.

‘Combining old materials with things in the new era is often a fun way of looking at classics‘ — Weber (cited in Stelzner, 2014), creative director

‘Retro’ is referred to as an imitation of clothing or style of the previous era which has been ‘patterned after an old style’ (Jay, 2012), however is manufactured anew (Schonlau, 2011). In general terms, it refers to anything appearing ‘out of style for the current time period’ (Polly, 2011). Under the philosophy that these items were ‘never out of fashion… because they [were] never strictly in’ (Conville, Hoggart, Lovett, 2011) this article will discuss how ‘outdated’ luscious velvets, raunchy fishnets, the tracksuit pant, and ‘matchy-matchy’ co-ordinations have seen a resurgence within today’s millenials and become the new, new modern.

Fabrication: The velvet

‘I like its rich in texture and tactile but without the old mannish feeling and it is so trendy! and I can wear this in different occasions.’

From the aspect of fabrication, another bold return from last century is the familiar yet unfamiliar velvet, which is always considered as an old-fashion fabric from your granny’s wardrobe with a mass produce design. Velvet is back with different modes: products made with velvet, including ribbed velvet, cotton or silk velvet, velveteen or panne. As found in most stores, it usually comes in form of panne velour, a fabric with a shiny, lustrous surface. This velour fabric is composed of cotton twisted in two strands and a silk warp pile (occasionally or gandy) much longer than that of common velvet. In order to achieve the decorative effect, the hair is flattened, pressed and stretched in succession with a cylinder pressed finish, mechanically resulting in its lustre and sheen. This is commonly referred to as mirror velvet (Sposito NA). ‘I like its rich in texture and tactile but without the old mannish feeling and it is so trendy! and I can wear this in different occasions’, said by a staff who works in Urban Outfitter. Garments made with such elegant and luminous fabric are a must-have in this fast pace metropolis, it is both easy to wear and easy to adapt. Velvet and retro influences have also begun to emerge on footwear, where little highlight details or whole surface designs can be seen on shoes.

Accessories: Nothing But Net

‘Surprisingly and subtly, wearing fishnet tights with the modern outfit, I mean, garments which are produced nowadays are more elegant than before instead of looking like slutty party girls’. – RetroChicMama, 2017
In Shoreditch, the area of creativity, luckily we encountered the founder of the online shopping platform, Jaide Douse. She dressed in a playful style demonstrating the mix and match boldly, the combination of fishnet tights, Vans sneakers, laced up hoodie and bomber jacket in light pink are totally on point as a retro rebeller.

This sense of rebellion is also reflected in the reappearance of fishnet tights and stockings. Upon first impression, fishnets come attached with stigmas suggesting dangerous femme fatales and backwards ideologies of prostitutes and women with illicit occupations. However, from the later half of 2016 to early 2017, girls began to wear them to challenge traditional beliefs. Nevertheless, instead of wearing it simply with a tight mini skirt and over-the-knee boots, the fish net leggings are now being paired under hollowed-out, ripped denim jeans, revealing ‘peeks’ at the garment underneath. Fishnet tights are seen worn with loafers, sneakers or high heels. Webbed materials are also utilised as the top or shoes. High collared webbed tops have been seen paired underneath shirts or jackets, bringing out the spark of different textures. It seems that by adding this little something in your outfit, the notoriously exposing material is bringing back a cool yet romantic vibe, showcasing the indistinct chemical reaction between the tights and the torso.

Outfit: The Tracksuit Pant

‘In the 1970s, active wear began to set new style records—and it hasn’t slowed down yet’ — Julia szabo

Stripe trackpants were trendy outfits over the course of our stay in Europe: girls are putting on a  pair of cozy wide pants, without giving up dressing their upper body, different layers were applied, just like the hippies in old time.

The tracksuits were invented as an outfit for the increasing demand and attention on leading a healthy life in the 60s and 70s. After being introduced by Adidas in 1964, the tracksuit became a fashion staple in the 70s, where fashion began to ‘get physical’ (Vogue 1977). On the London leg of our tour, it was found that this athleisure trend was already wide-spread, with tracksuit pants being worn both on the streets and in demand in retail stores. Contrary from the way tracksuits were worn in the past, elements of the tracksuit are now being paired with iconic wide, kimono sleeve shirts, a pair of distinct high heels or a fur overcoat. ‘The return of the tracksuit is only further proof that the athleisure trend has hit new levels’ (Euse, 2016). This trend differs from its predeceasing wide-leg pant, paired with vivid stripes on both side seams of the pant, this variation breaks the silence of a boring minimalistic style. Another reason for the increasing popularity of the athleisure trend is to fill a gap in the market place, where clothing that was functional wasn’t particularly stylish (Great speculations 2016). This retro style was reinforced when the ‘British-most-rebel’ queen Vivian Westwood (cited in McDermott 2002) claimed: ‘What I used for designing is something already existed long ago in the history, my demonstration is to be as loyal as its original state or at least part of its element’. This is perhaps modern London’s response to those classic ‘hippie’ look.

Co-ordinated: The Science of my Wardrobe

A study titled ‘The Science of Style: In Fashion, Colors should Match Only Moderately’, found that aesthetic preferences generally follow the ‘Goldilocks Principle’ which seeks to balance simplicity and complexity – meaning, ‘fashionable’ outfits are those that are neither ultra-matched (coined ‘matchy-matchy’) nor zero-matched (‘clashing’), but instead are moderately matched (Gray, Schmitt, Strohminger, Kassam, 2014). However, fashion it seems, is not something which scientific research can explain. Our affinity for these heavily co-ordinated sets is something of a fashion faux pas, a sort of anti-trend which in and of itself has become a trend amongst those seeking to be individual. As tacky as the term sounds, the streets of London and Berlin were riddled with these ‘matchy-matchy’ outfits. Whether it be double-denim, outrageous prints on top of outrageous prints, or a simple monochromatic colour palette, outfits were co-ordinated in such a way which drew attention to the wearer. Whether this is an individual act of rebellion against a bleak and normative society or out of sheer laziness, it is interesting to note where these styles emerged from and why individuals are wearing them today.

Through the haze of grey, standing bold: Lillie, found in Flohmarkt im Mauerpark (Pauerpark Flea Market, Berlin) is dressed in a well-coordinated pink ensemble. Lillie pairs a pink overcoat with a matching pink scarf. Pale blue boyfriend jeans complement the light colour palette, whilst patterned spectacles, earrings and socks tie the outfit together. The gold shoes add an element of focus to the outfit.

These heavily co-ordinated outfits were incredibly common in the late 60s and early 70s. Found in the ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ exhibition in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, this era was greatly influenced by political, social and cultural events, where music, fashion and ideology stood to rebel against authoritative powers. This era of sex, drugs, and protest, saw the rise of ‘hippie’ clothing, drug-induced happenings and freedom of thought led by the ‘Youthquake’. A resurgence of these trends and ideologies can be seen through the youths of today, where rebellion and passion is rife, because they need to be, because they have to be.     

A rebel alliance: Statement jackets found in Bikini Berlin reading ‘THERE IS POWER IN UNITY’ and ‘WE ARE ALL ONE’.

“Advance guard, overturn, teasing, fighting against the system..are the word describing the rebellion”—Junxi Lin(2015)

Evidently, fashion has changed dramatically in the last century due to unstable social events and circumstances; from the closure of totalitarian empires and kingdoms and colonisation, to the revolution of ideology, the break out of the second world war and various economic and environmental crises, and shifts from maximalism to minimalism – these events have all shaped the way we lead our lives, and in turn how we present ourselves to society. In our findings, a common thread laid beneath all the stylistic choices of the individuals we met, that is, the bravery to fight against societal expectations and norms. The ‘retro’ found in London paid homage to their ancestral hippie lifestyle. For a country not ready for Brexit, not ready for the recent terrorist attacks surrounding them, a country moving too fast – the rationale behind pairing all these 70s elements seems almost as a means of worship of that spiritual era, where nostalgia of the golden age serves as an escape from our current reality. Contrarily, central Berlin presents the attitudes and ideologies of 1989, the year the Berlin Wall was torn down. Where new freedom of thought was found, designers gradually broke through their limitations and boundaries within art, craftsmanship and technology (Lu, 2015). A newfound freedom is prevalent in the people, where rebellion is like air in a pressure cooker – ready to burst at a moments notice, running against the mainstream of flushed minimalism – innovators making traditional scholasticism playful again.


  1. Difference between ‘retro’ and vintage’ [Online]. Available: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/56660/difference-between-retro-and-vintage [Accessed 2017].

ANTIQUES, P. 2011. The Difference Between Retro, Vintage, and Antique [Online]. Available: http://www.pollybland.com/2011/10/difference-between-retro-vintage-and.html [Accessed 2017].

CHENG, A. 2014. Are “Matchy-Matchy” Looks a Fashion Faux Pas? Science Says, Yes [Online]. InStyle. Available: http://www.instyle.com/news/are-matchy-matchy-looks-fashion-faux-pas-science-says-yes [Accessed 2017].

CLARE CONVILLE, L. H., SARAH-JANE LOVETT 2011. Dangerous Women: The Guide to Modern Life, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Euse, E 2016, 8 Throwback Styles You’ll See in 2016, < http://www.complex.com/style/2016/02/8-throwback-styles-youll-see-in-2016/ >. 

KURT GRAY, P. S., NINA STROHMINGER, KARIM S. KASSAM 2014. The Science of Style: In Fashion, Colors Should Match Only Moderately.

Lu, YA 2015, “chapter5: Freedom: Do What You Really Want”, Tomorrow Berlin: 100 key tastes, Commercial Journal 

Lu, YA 2015, “chapter 10: Vivian Westwood: Punk Queen’s advance guard art” Rebellious London: 100 key tastes, Commercial Journal.

Market Moves 2016, The Athleisure Trend Is Here To Stay, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2016/10/06/the-athleisure-trend-is-here-to-stay/#36f7934cdb23>, Para.2.

Schonlau, J 2011, “Introduction”, Moda Retro, Ilus Books, Spain.

Stefanella,  S no date, “Panne”,Fabric In Fashion Design, Pomopress, p157.

Stelzner, J 2014, “Alexx& Anton”, Berlin Fashion: Labels-Lifestyle-Looks, Prestel Publishing, London, p91.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s