American sportswear look of the ’70s makes a comeback at NY Fashion Week

By Samantha Critchell, AP
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shall we disco? Fashion Week embraces ’70s muse

NEW YORK — Say what you will about disco, the 1970s were a good time for American fashion. It’s when New York really carved its niche as the sportswear capital of the world.

And now, for spring 2011, designers, are reclaiming the look as their own at New York Fashion Week.

Marc Jacobs led the pack with models in frizzed-out hair, jumpsuits, hot pants, culottes and striped knits. But he’s not the only one to embrace the billowy shapes, scarf-tied tops, tunics, crafty macrame looks and long, wide-legged trousers of that era.

Badgley Mischka, Rachel Roy and Elie Tahari embraced a ’70s muse on Tuesday. Halston and Diane Von Furstenberg always have a touch of ’70s glam, and their spring 2011 collections were no different.

“We’re looking at videos all around us in Lincoln Center right now and we’re like ‘Oh, there’s a ’70s thing, there’s ’70s, there’s ’70s,’” James Mischka told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s happening all around us, and it’s just kind of in the water on 7th Avenue, I guess.”


There’s a lot of fashion, of course, at a Rodarte fashion show, but there’s also a lot of show. And, apparently, there’s now a movie, too.

Guests previewing Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s wood-themed collection Monday were informed by signs all over the doors that cameras for a Rodarte film would be rolling.

Using a soundtrack of mellow ’70s hits, models worked their way around a maze of shipping pallets in dresses that mimicked tree bark and paneling, jackets with cutout shoulders and suits made of an embossed leather in rich shades of brown.

There were kooky combinations of patterns — checks and plaids and stripes, often all together — but that’s the norm for these high-concept, low-profile sisters from California. It worked this time largely because the palette was so soothing, rooted in forest shades. A handful of blue-and-white prints inspired by the Ming Dynasty provided a lighter, brighter contrast.


Mark Badgley and James Mischka do their glamour thing every season. It’s the DNA of the Badgley Mischka brand. If it hits the trends, great, they say. If not, that’s OK, too.

How about doing it halfway?

The inspiration for the collection was the 1987 movie “White Mischief” starring Greta Scacchi, about a 1940s-era affluent woman visiting Kenya and finding romance and adventure. But there were more than a few nods to the ’70s.

They delivered with a pool-print chiffon top and a long, white georgette skirt dotted with white petals, a strapless sand-and-ivory organza gown with more petals and silver beads arranged like fans, and a romantic rose-and-silver gown that looked like a satin slip and a penoir on top.


The city-loving night owl that has long defined the Halston customer probably doesn’t get out into the garden much, so designer Marios Schwab gave her a few reminders of what it might be like out there: light, pretty, soft.

“I started looking into florals and wild orchids and that was the start of the inspiration,” he said in an interview before Monday night’s New York Fashion Week presentation at a Chelsea gallery.

But this was no garden party, either. Halston is built on easy, sexy chic of the ’70s kind, and Schwab embraces that while adding his own touches of modernity.

A black jersey dress, for example, had a gold snakelike halter top, and a two-tone, one-shoulder gown had a burnout effect in the beading. All it took from a white, high-neck georgette dress to become a sexy number were split sleeves and a gold waistband, and an ivory-pink jersey dress was gathered at the bottom, as if the model had just tacked up a longer gown because she no longer wanted to be bothered by the fuss.


In the 24/7 cycle that so many women live, they dress up, they dress down; they like color, they want neutrals. Designer Rachel Roy aimed to address all those needs with her spring collection.

For a cool daytime look, a model wore a midnight-blue bustier over a floral button-down shirt — with an embellished collar for extra oomph — and linen cropped trousers. It sounds like a high-fashion look, but it would likely work for many shapes and lifestyles.

The same could be said for the azure-colored jacket worn with a maroon polo and aqua tie-bottom cargo pant.

She was particularly drawn to a neutral sandy shade that she dubbed “Band-Aid.” It was her way of getting around the potentially thorny issue of calling a color “nude,” which really only addresses one skin tone.

“I’m always considerate of skin tones, and I always make sure something looks good against a variety of skin tones,” she said. The idea behind the little plastic bandage is that it disappears onto the skin while still making an improvement, she explained.


Marc Jacobs knows his clientele and offered up some colorful and fun, flirty styles for his secondary line.

His show opened with a model wearing a sweet striped long dress that hit below the knee. A gray long dress with a gray top was paired with yellow wedges. There was a striped jumpsuit with beige wedges. A long red skirt was paired with a black, red and gray striped top.

A yellow long dress had a 1940s feel to it. Another striking look was a parachuter’s jumpsuit, paired with beige platforms. A pretty red and white striped long dress had bows on the shoulders. It was worn with a blue and white bag.


Elie Tahari was among the designers reclaiming the look of the ’70s, using a super-stylish woman like Lauren Hutton as a muse, the designer explained as he presented his collection.

“As we were working on it (the collection), it just seemed the right time to revisit that period of fashion,” Tahari said.

But no one wants to see a rehash of tired looks, either, he added, so the modernity comes from altered proportions, and natural colors and textures. The result was a sort of cleaned-up memory of that era, without overdoing cliches.

Many of the Tahari outfits were done in sandy colors but flashes of gold and white suggested goddesslike looks. Put them together and you get a wardrobe for the Greek islands.


Tracy Reese likes her catwalk to be a happy place and she consistently turns out clothes that suit that mood.

For the spring collection that previewed Monday at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, she used words like “mellow” and “groovy” to describe the prevailing look. (The red flared pants make so much more sense now.)

A black halter maxi dress, a waves-and-orchid print peasant blouse and the poncho worn over a tie-neck blouse and Bermudas all channeled the relaxed style of a woman unconcerned about her BlackBerry or iPhone — if she even owns one or knows what it is.

But the inspiration here wasn’t sheltered or old-fashioned, either: While Reese’s muse fully embraces the season’s relaxed silhouettes — right down to the floppy hats — she also wears leather bra tops and a perforated halter dress.


Flowing rock goddess dresses and tomboy suede jackets in neutral khaki, rich browns and camel were set against the sunny New York City skyline for the earthy Diesel Black Gold presentation.

Leaf motifs more suited to autumn popped up on tailored leather jackets with crosshatched seams, and in fringe overlay on short dresses and flowing longer versions topped with tight, edgy leather bodices anchored by braided straps.

Diesel called the collection an ode to the wild creativity of the West Coast arts and crafts movement, the free spirit of rock festivals and the sun-drenched landscapes of California, as seen through the eyes of designer Sophia Kokosalaki.

AP writers Lisa Orkin Emmanuel and Leanne Italie contributed to this report.

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