The ’70s are alive and well — on screen and off

Could it be, after 40 years, that we’re finally ready to start forgiving?

We’ve been having a laugh at the expense of 1970s fashion ever since Alicia Bridges stopped loving the nightlife (and no longer had to boogie). Synthetic fabrics, aggressively wide-legged trousers, and butterfly collars simply didn’t hold up as well as Bill Blass predicted. But thanks in part to this week’s big Golden Globes winner “American Hustle,” fashion followers are looking back at the 1970s a bit more sympathetically.

But it’s not just “American Hustle” that’s brought the nation this 1970s moment. Designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Jenny Packham showed Spring/Summer 2014 collections that glamorized the decade. More importantly, we’re experiencing a full-on pop culture barrage of late- ’70s style. From the silliness of “The Spoils of Babylon” to the earnest, everyday dress of “Argo,” the so called Me decade is, stylistically speaking, riding high.

Claire Folger/Warner Bros.


  • Ben Affleck’s 2012 drama (and big 2013 Oscar winner) set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis didn’t use wardrobe as a sight gag. Instead, watching the clothes in the film was akin to observing how your aunt Phylis dressed day-to-day as you flip through the pages of a family photo album from the late 1970s.

Claudette Barius/HBO


  • Liberace’s crystal-studded capes aside, HBO’s “Candelabra” offered a new perspective on late-1970s wardrobe through Matt Damon’s transformation from earnest, denim-clad John Schneider look-alike to Lee’s slick polyester-loving boyfriend. It was difficult to stop looking at Rob Lowe’s face (and wig), as plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, but his clothes also gave an impressive performance.


  • This is the movie that reminded the world that Halston was no joke, and all the free love and cocaine circulating in the late 1970s seeped rather blatantly into the minds of fashion designers. Amy Adams is a one-woman fashion show in this film, while Jennifer Lawrence showed the world that a 1970s stay-at-home mom with a botched home tan could also be sexy.

Gemma LaMana/Paramount Pictures


  • Another film set in 1979, “Anchorman 2” employs wardrobe to both establish the era and be playful about the transition from the 1970s to the 1980s. Will Ferrell’s humble San Diego wardrobe is replaced by big city full-length leather jackets with fox fur collars, while Paul Rudd’s slim fit Yves Saint Laurent suits showed that goofy can also be sexy.

Katrina Marcinowski/IFC


  • The miniseries currently airing Thursday nights on IFC and fictitiously filmed between 1976 and 1979, plays with the high fashion seen during the soapy miniseries phenomenon of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kristen Wiig, looking far more chic in the 1979 world of “Babylon” than the 1979 world of “Anchorman,” has a collection of feathered wigs that puts Jaclyn Smith to shame.

Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @chris_muther.
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