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Feather Cuts and Flares

Posted on Friday 18th November 2011

Walker Art Gallery

It may have been The Decade That Style Forgot but in the 1970s nobody seemed to care as fashion designers had fun and Anything Goes was the order of the day. 

Feather Cuts and Flares is a new display at the Walker Art Gallery featuring nine original outfits from this turbulent period when extravagant modes blossomed despite social and political upheaval. 

Platform heels, flared trousers, flowery finery, feather cut hairstyles and hot pants took people’s minds off economic troubles, strikes, power cuts and terrorism.

Pop icons such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Abba burst on the scene to mask the uncertainties of the era in a storm of feathery flounces and outrageous glitzy costumes. 

Their styles were mimicked on the High Street and Feather Cuts and Flares has some memorable examples of outfits that could once be seen everywhere – from city centres and night clubs to pubs and parties.

The fashions reflected the fabrics popular at the time – from man-made products such as Crimplene and Tricel to natural materials like knitted wool and cotton corduroy.

Dave Moffat, display curator, says:

“Fashion went crazy in reaction to problems of the time. The reality is that the 1970s did have style - much of it remains unforgettable as proved by its constant revival in today’s fashions.”

Exhibits show contrasting casual and formal men’s fashions. Billowing flared trousers are paired with a corduroy blouson jacket ready for a night on the town. 

A revival of interest in the glamour of the 1920s and 30s is illustrated by a wool pinstriped suit. This style was prompted by the hit film The Great Gatsby released in 1974. 

Laura Ashley came to personify many aspects of female fashion in the 1970s. Her designs were part of a trend revisiting a romanticised, rural past.         

A printed cotton dress with a high frilly collar and long puff sleeves is typical of Ashley’s designs.

Suede hot pants revealing the legs are matched with a knitted wool halter neck.      

At the other end of the scale is a Crimplene evening dress that covers the whole body apart from the hands and forearms. 

A printed acetate evening dress is in a similar mode designed by John Bates whose 1960s designs included Diana Rigg’s leather outfits in The Avengers. By the 1970s his creations had become very fluid and sophisticated, as illustrated here.

Two trouser suits are made from man-made fibres. One features orange Crimplene, a colour very popular in the 1970s, while the other uses Tricel – a cellulose acetate made by Courtauld’s, the huge textile and chemicals conglomerate.

Finally, a knitted wool coat dress created by Bill Gibb shows the rise of both ethnic and romantic influences. The patterns in this dress are taken from Aztec designs.  

The display runs until autumn 2012.

Notes for editors

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic.                                          

We attract 2.5 million visitors every year. Our venues are World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, UK Border Agency National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

On 19 July 2011, our eighth venue, the Museum of Liverpool, opened at the city's Pier Head, part of the city's World Heritage Site. The museum tells the definitive story of Liverpool and its people and contains more than 6,000 items. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/|