We have seen a revival of the ankle sweeping maxi dress over the last couple of years and it can still be seen in Spring Summer collections for this year. Styles vary from slinky backless halter necks to cotton peasant or prairie dresses perfect for summer festivals. Many of the fabrics were easy care such as crimplene. They could be packed in a suitcase, be pulled out and be ready to wear. A lot were plain colours such as red or emerald green. Prints were cheery florals, stripes and checks but paisley, psychedelic and abstract prints were just as popular. The Gypsy and festival style dresses tend to be in cotton floral ditsy prints with broderie anglais trims. Some have border prints which increase in density as they get closer to the hemline. Others have deep frills at the bottom. Zips were mostly still metal, usually at the back with a hook and eye at the top.
More extravagant 70s maxi dresses have elaborate features such as huge chiffon sleeves or floaty attached capes. Others have hand painted designs or strong medieval features. . They were the perfect dinner party hostess dress, especially because the hostess trolley meant they could get everything ready and then go and get changed into something totally impractical for the kitchen! Among the best and more popular maxi dress labels are Jean Varon, Dereta, Katy and Julie. I have also had some great designs from St Michael, Richard shops, C&A and Chelsea girl.
At Revival we used to shorten a lot of our 70s maxi dresses but we have started to leave them at their original length especially with the growing popularity of the longer length ‘lady like’ skirts. We have had some superb examples of full length evening dresses often black with black or silver lurex. Glitzy silver was the ultimate disco colour. 1976 Vogue magazine declared ‘dressing was clearly about all out glamour to outshine everything’.
A lot have deep waist bands, cross over bodices and again scooped and halter necks are popular. In many ways the sexy plunging back that resulted from the halter neck style evoked the sleek lines of the French designer Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut creations of the 1930s. One of the advantages of this neckline was that it exposed a fair bit of flesh which suited sun worshipers as they could show off their tans.
I have also seen fully crocheted and all lace maxi dresses, we have a lovely sage green one at the moment. So for maximum impact opt for a 70s maxi for summer parties, muddy festivals, and garden parties. If you don’t fancy sweeping the floor as you walk along then the late 70s midi dress could be more your thing. Similar styles to the maxi but at a mid calf length.