Off The Cuff: How Do I Make The ‘70s Trend Work For My Body Type?

The '70s is for everyone.

The '70s is for everyone.

Dear Winona,

I loved your article about fall trends and am obsessing over all the ‘70s stuff in stores right now. My problem is I feel like I’m not the right shape for any of it. Bell bottoms and maxi dresses all seem to be made for tall, lean ladies, and I’m short, soft, and curvy. Is there a way for me to wear the styles I love even though they aren’t made for my body type?


Too short for the ‘70s

Dear TSFT7,

I can’t tell you how much I relate to your conundrum. Let’s just say I have felt this way fairly constantly from the time I was 11 and went to the GAP for my first pair of jeans and was told, due my short, stubby legs, I shouldn’t even THINK of wearing any style other than bootcut for the rest of my life. Ugh. Since then, there have been so many times that I loved a trend or a style but felt like wasn’t allowed to wear it because I was too short, chubby, busty, insert-body-related-adjective-here. Do I still do this from time to time? Absolutely. Do I still not wear stuff I want to wear sometimes because of these beliefs? Yep. Do I try really hard to wear what I want, despite all the inner and outer voices telling me not to? Yes. Every day.

Basically, you have two options. They are as follows:

Option #1: Don’t give a flying fuck.

I know this seems like supremely unhelpful advice from a fashion advice columnist, but I implore you to take this option seriously. You don’t have to abide by the rules espoused in fashion magazines. You don’t have to accept our culture’s definition of “flattering,” which is basically: try to make yourself look as tall and thin as possible.

When you find yourself thinking, “I can’t wear that,” ask yourself “Why?” and really force yourself answer honestly. My own answers to this question are usually something along the lines of, “I’m too fat,” or “I’m too short,” or “I’m not cool enough.” Once you’ve uncovered your answer, ask yourself one more question: “Who cares?”

There is no law that says only certain body types are allowed to wear certain styles of clothing. Nothing terrible is going to happen to you if you opt for a pair of flare jeans that make your thighs look bigger or a maxi dress that visually shortens your already short frame. You will still be gorgeous and unique and worthy of love and respect. You will still be you. Maybe your legs won’t look as long, or your waist won’t be as defined, but hey, you’ll be wearing a piece of clothing that you absolutely LOVE. Every time I’ve made that tradeoff, it’s been absolutely worth it. And let me tell you, when you have a body shape that’s not exactly well-represented in fashion magazines and pop culture, it is so ridiculously freeing to make the decision to wear what you want, and stop making your clothing decisions based on an extensive list of rules that will hopefully turn you into a lean, long illusion.

So yeah, the gist of option #1: go buy yourself a pair of big, dramatic bell bottoms. Go to your fave vintage store and scoop up a maxi dress. Rock a boho faux fur vest and a floppy hat and a suede mini skirt. Why? Because you want to.

Option #2: Interpret the trend in your own way.

A while back, a reader wrote in asking about crop tops — she wanted to wear them, but she was insecure about showing her stomach. My answer was pretty similar to my answer to you: rock a crop top if you want (and more power to you!), but remember there’s also a middle ground. Maybe you wear a crop top with a high-waisted skirt to not show as much skin, or you wear a kimono top over it  to make you feel more comfortable. Basically: if option #1 isn’t your jam right now, there is always a way to interpret trends in a way that feels right for your body, budget, and wardrobe.

In the case of the ‘70s trend, figure out the specific aspects of this aesthetic that you’re drawn to. The swingy silhouettes? The rich colors? The massive amounts of fringe? The attitude that everything is better when it’s made of suede? All of the above? (I’m so with you.)

Any of these aspects of the trend can be interpreted in a less literal way. You can shop for blouses in rich colors like burgundy and olive green in shapes that you find flattering for your shape. If you like the look of swing dresses but feel like they swallow up your short frame, you can opt for as swingy skirt and balance it with a fitted top, or add a wide belt (in distressed leather with an ornate ‘70s-style buckle, natch). You can buy a fringed purse and fringed boots and a fringed jacket. You can add a wide-brimmed floppy hat to all your go-to outfits and voila! Instant ‘70s vibe.

If you’re not in the mood to subvert traditional fashion rules and stick to it to the man (which, hey, I get it, we don’t always have the time/energy/willingness to do that), get creative and choose the aspects of the trend you love most, and insert them into your wardrobe in ways that feel right to you.

Whichever option you choose, be sure to listen to Carly Simon while getting dressed. No Secrets is such a great album.

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