The 1970s were a time of significant societal change in America. The upheaval that began in the 1960s continued through the 1970s. Baby Boomers, reacted to the status quo and conformity of their parent’s generation in which the decisions of corporate and governmental leaders were accepted without question. They embraced rock music, sexual freedom, experimented with drugs, and led alternative lifestyles in unprecedented numbers. Their choices in clothing and grooming, both on the street and at the beach defied traditional norms.
Developed by Guest Curator, James Hanley
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Beachwear for men in the 1970s encompassed several distinctly different styles. Older, more mature guys continued to wear traditional bathing suits, like the plaid trunks on display in the exhibition. Classic in pattern and cut they were introduced to the
U.S. market in the 1950s and continued to be popular. Cabana sets were also commonly seen on America’s beaches although their
popularity was waning by the 1970s.
For the most part, the average family enjoying a beach vacation in Galveston in the early 1970s selected swimwear that fell in a middle range veering away from any extremes. Colors were bright, the cuts of the bathing suits worn by both men and women were moderate, and patterns were similar to those found on the sand in the 1960s.
Overwhelmingly fashionable beachwear in the 1970s trended toward unabashedly sexier and more revealing designs, especially as the decade progressed. Although innocent looking one-piece swimsuits, like the one worn here by supermodel Christie Brinkley for Sports Illustrated, along with modest swim dress and two-piece bathing suits were also available.
The string bikini, which became widely popular on America’s shores in the 1970s, was among the most popular beach fashions of the century. A decade earlier this very low-waisted two-piece with skinny shoulder straps and slender ties at the hips to secure the bottom in place would have been shocking.
Among the many bright patterns and colors that were used in making bathing suits in the 1970s the most expressive and individual were by the Italian clothing designer Emilio Pucci. His abstract florals and swooping patterns were instantly identifiable. Examples of 1970s designs in Pucci patterns.
By far the most popular and widely reproduced image of a woman in a bathing suit taken in the 1970s was the work of the photographer Bruce McBroom and his incomparable 29-year-old model Farrah Fawcett, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1976 the still largely unknown Fawcett, who would become a star that year, and receive a Golden Globe nomination for her work on the series Charlie’s Angels, was committed by contract to pose for a poster to be produced by Pro Arts, Inc.1976