1970s Disco Fashion: Bell-Bottoms And Boogie Shoes

Fads | January 25, 2019

When the disco craze hit in the 1970s, disco fashion was its sexy and outrageous look -- big shoes, bell bottoms, chest hair, and sparkles galore. To this day, it reminds us of the freedom and funkiness of the era. 1970s disco fashion picked and chose elements from the 1960s and expressed female and male sexual liberation. The keyword was glamour -- be glamorous, be fabulous, be chic. Put on your boogie shoes and your polyester, you're going to Funkytown.

In 1970s disco fashion, hippie looks got jazzed up, and the square got funky. John Travolta's white three-piece suit from Saturday Night Fever was a disco spin on very traditional men's attire. Both genders seemed to take style tips from each other. Men could primp and tend to their hair without seeming unmasculine, while women sought a stylish comfortability and freedom (better for dancing), epitomized by the Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress. And if you didn't want to stick to one gender, that was ok too -- gender-bending and androgyny were always in style at the Mecca of disco, New York City's Studio 54.

The disco craze defined an era of anything-goes on the dancefloor, and as with any proper craze, fashion played a key role in completing the entire disco experience. The total picture included the venue, the music, and quite possibly most importantly… the fashion! Back in the day, the disco floor was a fashion playground.

Let The Fabulousness Begin

Studio 54. Source: (vintage.es)

Disco fashion began in the gay underground nightclubs of New York. It wasn’t long before the outrageousness and sexuality spread to the dance-all-night heterosexual scene, on and disco and disco fashion went mainstream. 

By the time Saturday Night Fever was released in 1977, discotheque clubbers had defined the fashion of the disco era.

Turn The Fashion Beat Around

Saturday Night Fever. Source: (theglobeandmail.com)

Disco music is known for its "four-on-the-floor" rhythm, which referred to the constant quarter-note bass drum beat -- you'll find four-on-the-floor beats (with some variation) in almost every famous disco hit. This unmistakable and unique sound required a unique look. The counterculture era put an end to many taboos having to do with freedom of expression in the way people dressed. The underlying theory is that a person had to stand out in order to fit in. And stand out they did. Disco fashion, as we know it, emerged in the '70s and was mainly derived from the concepts that were born of the '60s.

Ring My Bell Bottoms

Bell bottoms. Source: (pinterest.com)

Bell bottoms were a product of the '60s that carried over into the '70s. They were a staple in any disco fanatic’s wardrobe. Typically, bell bottoms were low cut at the waist and flared at the bottom… the wider the better.

My, My, My, My, My Boogie Shoes

'70s disco fashion footwear. Source: (pinterest.com)

Shoes made the disco outfit complete. Disco footwear had those signature chunky, high heels and they weren’t just for women. Men got in on the chunky, high heel disco shoes too. Gold and silver lamé and glitter were typical for footwear.

All Suited Up For Leisure

Leisure suit ad. Source: (pinterest.com)

Leisure suits were a breath of fresh air in men's fashion -- finally, it was acceptable to wear a suit without a tie, and to show a little chest hair! They also broke the stereotypical black suit look with bright colors and wide lapels. That isn’t to say that it was improper for a guy to wear a tuxedo to strut his stuff on the disco dancefloor. Leather wasn’t out of the question either.

A Little Flashy, A Little Trashy

Hot pants. Source: (flashback.com)

Women wore everything from feathers to flowy skirts and dresses that moved with the groove on the dancefloor to skin-tight spandex and tube tops; and sequins, sequins, sequins! Sequins definitely added the finishing touch to any outfit since light from the disco ball bounced off them. And those hot pants… the shorter, the hotter.

Men wore tight pants with loud patterned shirts unbuttoned halfway down the chest. Men and women both wore satin pants and shirts and one-piece bodysuits. Everything was flashy.

Studio 54 Was The Most Famous Discotheque In The Country 

Celebrities at Club 54. Source: (respectthequeendom.wordpress.com)

Studio 54 in New York City opened in the late '20s but reinvented itself in the late '70s to accommodate the growing popularity of disco. It was so exclusive that it was always filled with celebrities.

Discotheques were filled with club goers that were all about mimicking the image of Studio 54 where there was an anything-goes culture. People were wearing anything and everything, and sometimes very little. Some disco dancers even showed up in outlandish costumes. When disco was in full swing, any night could be Halloween.

Disco Allowed Regular People To Dress Like Stars, If Only For One Night

Studio 54. Source: (mentalfloss.com)

By simply changing their clothes, a person could change their identity. The disco dancefloor became a fantasy land where a person could let their hair down, dress up, step out and stand out! Disco fashion was driven by impulsivity. If it felt right, it fit in. Disco fashion allowed a person to express his or her inner self. There was no rhyme or reason. Dancers wore styles that ran the gamut from conservative to outrageous.

Disco music became popular in the early '70s and is still alive and well today in certain circles. Today’s disco fashion is a bit more subdued than the showy fashion statements made by the '70s and '80s crowd. Disco fashion is a popular party theme in the 21st century, but back in the day, disco fashion wasn't simply a costume -- it was a statement.

The statement might have been no more sophisticated than "shake your groove thing" or "let's boogie-oogie-oogie til we just can't boogie no more" -- but it was delivered loud and clear.

Tags: A Brief History Of... | Bell Bottoms | Disco | Fashion | Fashion In The 1970s | Gay Culture | John Travolta | Polyester | Saturday Night Fever

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.