From glitter, synthetic shirts to platform shoes, disco fashion still charms us today with its flashiness and frivolity. Its history is interconnected to disco music, a new kind of music that emerged in the United States in the mid-70s. Born out of the music and underground culture of young Afro and Latino Americans, disco was designed to make people dance.
The discotheque became the place to listen to music and for youth to express their personality. Young Americans from all backgrounds quickly adopted this new lifestyle at the heart of finding self-expression through dance, fashion, and music. This lifestyle was popularized in 1977 in the movie Saturday Night Fever, starring actor John Travolta.
Disco clothing that was designed to show off the body and shine under dance-floor lights (1). With the coming of new synthetic fabrics like lycra and polyester, anyone could afford shiny and glamourous clothes. It is also at that time that men started to be more interested in their clothing style. Until then, grooming and defining your own personal style were categorized as “feminine” activities. Now everyone was encouraged to express their unique and personal style (2).
Following the feminist, gay and sexual revolutions that were mobilizing young Americans in the 1970s, clothing became symbols of individual freedom and self-expression (2) increasingly. Disco costumes, with their rich colors and glam, expressed these concepts of freedom and individuality creatively. In fact, this freedom in self-expression became inherent to discotheque culture.
This is why thousands of young people attended, every night, their favorite discotheque to show off their best clothes and their sexiest dance moves. The most famous of them all was Studio 54, located in New York City. Visited by famous and ordinary people alike, Studio 54 was a unique place where everyone could join the party and play with their identity for the night.
The dancefloor became a fantasy land where a person could stand out and express its own individuality (3). Exemplified by extravagant disco costumes, unbridled sexuality, and the nightclub scene quickly became decadence and excess places. Drugs and alcohol were inseparable from the experience of dancing and socializing, despite the positive values of freedom and self-expression initially associated with the movement.
It is in part this excessiveness that brought the movement to its end. In the late 70s, within a not-so-glamorous political context, the lifestyle was deemed excessively flamboyant and disconnected from reality to charm young Americans anymore (4).
A specific event has contributed to putting an end to this extravagant era. On July 12th, 1979, tens of thousands of rock music fans met in Chicago to explode disco music records. This anti-disco gathering, which ended in a violent riot, is known as Disco Demolition Night (4).
This is how the lifestyle was replaced by the punk rock movement, whose music and underground culture was more in tune with the current political context. Yet to say that disco disappeared would not be accurate. It has, in fact, evolved into other types of music, like house and techno, laying the foundation blocks of dance music for the next two decades (5).
Reliving the 1970s
Nowadays, what is left of the movement? More than forty years later, many people are still attracted to its decadent and glamourous lifestyle, as shown by the many movies and tv shows depicting that era. From a clothing point of view, disco fashion, like many other trends, has made periodic comebacks in the last few years. What about you? Which disco outfit has the most made its impression on you? Either you feel nostalgic or want to celebrate. Putting on a disco costume and pretending to be the king of the dance floor will never go out of fashion.
As said, the 70s, with its outlandish fashion, is a period that is incredibly easy to reproduce through with a wide range of 1970s costumes. When it comes to the decades, the 70s has always been identified as a party culture. So, it is not surprising that disco costume parties are one the most popular themes. Part of the popularity can be attributed to the numerous shows that are now being streamed. Because 70s parties typify what any fun party should be, it must include lots of music, dancing, and costumes. With the Bee Gees blaring “Saturday Night Fever,” the dance floor will be packed. Now, what better way to get in on the feeling than practising your moves on the dance floor in mind wearing a classic disco costume.
So, what are the most popular disco costumes for men and women today? Probably the top choices for women are jumpsuit-style disco costumes with flared legs and floppy sleeves. With its form-fitting mid-section, sparkling or sequined jumpsuits are popular and eye-catching. With its body-hugging design, many women go with a disco dress matched together with a belt or sash. Similar to the disco jumpsuit, the fabrics are usually shiny or shimmering, reflecting light and colors. Disco dresses tend to be mid-length or shorter, and colors and patterns run a wide range from swirls to rainbows but invariably shiny. Footwear is a great way to accentuate the 70s disco costume, and the most popular choices are with large platform shoes and boots. White disco boots are, of course, a super versatile option, but there are disco glitter platforms and other options.
For men, there are jumpsuits, shiny shirts, and white 3-piece suits are the top choices for men’s disco costumes. Those who can remember the movie Saturday Night Fever can recognize the iconic white 3-piece suit that Danny wears. There are plenty of costumes designed to give you that look. Black or white disco pants and a flashy disco shirt are popular safe options that give men plenty of choices for those who do not want to wear a jumpsuit. There are plenty of fun disco shoes for men, including glittering platform shoes and white platform shoes. What usually brings the disco look together is the disco costume combination with some 70s period accessories. Disco chains and medallions, sunglasses and shoes are ideal props and accessories that do not cost a lot but generate that look.
If you are interested in the 70s fashion and culture, you probably have an interest in reliving that period’s energy. As we start to think about getting back to normal, a party will get you and your friends together and celebrate in 70s style!