Way back when, Wednesdays

Funky fashion arrives in the North East

The days are getting shorter and the Autumn/Winter fashions are now in the stores. Let’s have a look at what people were wearing in 1971. The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper covered the coolest threads on offer for men, women and boys, from pages 36 – 37 of the edition dated 14 July 1971.

Knitted suits for men

Yes, these photographs are real. Perhaps these brands of menswear should have been labelled with a hazard warning “Wearing this garment may compel doe-eyed women to hang themselves precariously off your person at any given opportunity.”

Mens fashions knit shirt

These articles focused on how it was essential for a man to be stylish if he wanted to be admired and attract a lady companion. The photographs are over the top by modern standards but we all know that the advertising industry still uses sex appeal and prestige to sell products! John Brown’s smart knitted suits for casual and weekend wear were styled following overseas trends. Note the focus on Australian manufacture, no doubt using fine Australian wool. Maybe these women are not really gazing adoringly up at the male models – they are really just feeling the texture of these garments. For as the article states, women might be coveting the clothing for themselves!

A married man would make his wife’s life at home a lot easier if he chose to wear modern, easy care drip dry fabrics. Synthetic fabrics had been popular during the 1960s. These colourful and distinctive knit shirts in the ‘Summerknits’ range by John Brown were made from high tech fabrics such as Tricel and Teteron.

 

hotpants in crimplene

Conversely, the ladies modelling a new range of women’s clothing don’t need men as accessories in these photoshoots. Wearing funky hotpants, this girl is confident, in style and ready to have fun.

During the 1970s fashions changed greatly from the beginning of the decade to its end. In 1971 the fashions were very much like those of 1969. Garments made from polyester were popular as they were inexpensive and did not need ironing. Bright colours and bold prints were still in demand. Checks and tweeds were in vogue too.

 

Lady with silver buckle

Distinctive fashions by young Prue Acton, the first Australian designer to break into the American market.  Prue embraced both new synthetic and natural fibres, to create her bold and colourful designs (https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2377).

 

Young women still liked mini-skirts but long, flowing skirts were also worn. Fashion continued to be influenced by the hippie era and ethnic influence of the late 1960s. Women wore long bohemian print dresses with billowing sleeves. Men’s loose shirts in floral patterns had ties around the neck or an open neckline. Not forgetting the leather sandals and scarves tied around your head. And hippie men wore beards and long hair.
Turtleneck jumpers were popular with both sexes and every woman owned at least one cowl neck jumper, to wear with pants or under a pinafore dress. Ladies still liked trendy short hair styles. But long hair might be worn down loose, plaited or dressed in a soft, bohemian up-style for a natural look. Or you could set it in waves.

Another trend emerged – the 1970s was the first decade where women wore pants and pantsuits for work and leisure. Women could wear jeans at home and elegant or trendy pants to a nightclub or restaurant. Some dress codes allowed women to wear business suits with pants to the office. By the end of the decade, women could basically wear what they wanted, which was revolutionary (https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s/1970s-fashion-for-women-girls/).  Trousers for both men and women were low rise, firm on the hips and with a wider leg which was sometimes cuffed. Corduroy clothing or men and women such as jeans, and sports coats with wide lapels, were seen everywhere (http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971fashions.html).

 

boys 2

Knitwear and shirts by John Brown for little men, made from machine washable wool.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Extra duties at work

When you look at the issues of the North East Leader Messenger from the first two months of 1972, they are filled with photographs of fresh-faced children of all ages enjoying the summer heat, usually swimming at the local pools, or taking part in fun activities at Tea Tree Plaza. Looking at these images can evoke fond memories of your childhood. You might reflect that kids never change, no matter the era in which they grow up.

Fortunately some things that were not so wholesome have changed. The North East Leader at this time often pictured photographs of staff at Tea Tree Plaza, wearing some of the outfits on sale at different stores. Most of these depict ordinary people modelling dresses or casual wear. They are usually female staff.

On page 20 of the North East Leader dated 16 February 1972, Tea Tree Plaza featured a sales promotion for the big sidewalk sale. In conjunction with Hooper’s Furniture, Sussan advertised ladies nightwear. In the accompanying photograph young sales assistant Wendy Cummings is pictured in an alluring pose, wearing a short nightdress and showing off her legs. Besides her is another set of nightwear. During the 1960s and 1970s Sussan was a major retailer of lingerie and the place to purchase your wedding ‘trousseau’. We cannot know if Wendy volunteered for the photo opportunity or if modelling Sussan’s stock was just part of her job.

Sussan nightdress

Two of my colleagues recall how much sexism they experienced in the workplace during the 1970s. The advertising industry still uses sex appeal to sell products and objectify women. Thankfully today we do not usually see this type of image in the Messenger newspaper, with its focus on family and the community. When you work in the retail industry it is no longer considered acceptable to ask your female staff to promote your shop’s stock by being photographed wearing a little nightie. You also have the right to say no to such a request.

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