Derek's Reviews > 70s Fashion Fiascos: Studio 54 to Saturday Night Fever

70s Fashion Fiascos by Maureen Valdes Marsh
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's review
Dec 27, 2008

it was ok
Read from November 06 to 10, 2012

My own limited exposure to the nadir of 1970's fashion is a photograph taken at my grandmother's house (a photograph which I have sworn to obtain and destroy every copy before they put me in the ground), where my brother, my father, and I are all standing outside in our brand new Easter Sunday best: leisure suits, identical but for color and nauseating shirt pattern. As I recall my brother was holding a metal beach pail and shovel because nobody could take them away from him.

This book is a confection, but of a different sort than I expected. Given the over-the-top cover and the word "Fiascos" in the title, I thought this would be a snarky James Lileks style send-up of the fashion Hindenburgs of the decade (a lengthy and detailed task). But despite guffaw-provoking photography gleaned from vintage Sears / Montgomery Ward / etc. catalogs, it borders on an actual serious work that outlines a decade that struggled free from stodgy and limiting fashion dictates (white shirt and boring tie for men; dresses and skirts of blah blah specification for women) and into the waiting arms of blotchy polyester and leisure suits. So something was both gained and lost, there.

It still has snark about it (how could it not, when dealing with the "unsuit" and matching bright pick shirts with tartan and white, wide belts?) but this is relatively low key and specific to actual photographs. Unfortunately aside from the camp value of the pictures themselves--of models who look surprisingly earnest about wearing such things--the historical discussions aren't strong enough to hold this thing up, and neither are the comic asides.

It does, however, make and support the case that the decade was more than just a Petri dish of really stupid fashion ideas.

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