After the dramatic events of 1968, Poland had a period of relative calm and prosperity – the economy was thriving. This was mainly thanks to a series of international loans granted to the communist government under First Secretary Edward Gierek.
Store shelves were no longer glaringly bare and the most palpable symbol of the nation’s improved economic situation was access to Western goods.
The height of luxury at the time was a pair of American-made jeans, only available to shoppers at PEWEX shops – government-owned retailers that only accepted payments in U.S. dollars. Poles made up for the lack of access to high-end fashion with an eclectic approach to putting their outfits together. The biggest trend of the time was expressing one’s individuality through an inimitable mix of looks drawn from the past, present and with a nod towards the future. Retro inspirations were combined with futuristic miniskirts, spangled disco pieces, and hippie flares and prints.
Many women added pieces of menswear to their looks to add an androgynous spin on their style, while making a visual statement on equality.
Men also began taking a more creative approach to the way they dressed, indulging in colorful hues, intricate prints and flared trousers, and letting their hair grow longer. Jeans were all the rage, along with bell-bottoms and shearling coats – this was the standard uniform of concert goers who swayed along to the music of ABBA, The Rolling Stones and other Western bands, who crossed the Iron Curtain to entertain Poland’s music fans. The local music scene was also blossoming, with Maryla Rodowicz, Czesław Niemen, Urszula Sipińska, and many others capturing the spirit of the times in their heartfelt vocals and iconic looks.
The look launched by the flower children calling for world peace was swiftly adopted by Poles, who also yearned to express themselves and their own rebellion through a more colorful and laid-back style. Floral patterns and psychedelic swirls were king, while eco-friendly fabrics tied into a turn back towards a more natural lifestyle. Clothing and accessories paid heed to traditional craftsmanship, often with elements of local folklore. These trends also managed to fit in neatly with the propaganda that the communist regime sought to promote.
The miniskirt of previous decades now had to compete with midi and maxi skirts of the hippie era – but the choice was up to the wearer! Very different styles from abroad were growing in popularity in Poland, along with alternative lifestyle trends from the East, such as yoga, Hinduism and macrobiotic diets. It would, however, be a while before Poles could stretch their limbs at an actual yoga studio.
This particular hippie trend had its roots in the local tradition of sheepskin production. While the Beatles may have been fans of the Afghan style, Polish shearling coats were quite the rage among hippies at home and abroad.
For those who desired nothing less than the most luxurious, all-natural fabrics, the silks produced in Milanówek would surely satisfy their expensive tastes. Their look and texture was achieved through the work of the most skilled craftsmen and artists, who hand-painted these quality textiles, following time-honored craft traditions, that go back to the 1920s. One of Poland 2019s most well-known clothing brands of the time, Moda Polska, ordered their silk fabrics from the Milanówek factory in the small suburb of Warsaw of the same name
The most popular alternative to the hippie look was retro style. The trend was quite broad – it encompassed styles from every decade since the 1920s. Retro pieces were paired with current fashion items for completely unique looks. The most valuable finds of the era were vintage floor-sweeping gowns and anything authentic that could be scored from granny or grandad’s wardrobe.
The‘70s saw the rise of Biba, the London-based fashion brand established by Warsaw native Barbara Hulanicki, which took the vintage look as its style cue for its outfits and textiles, and for its marketing materials and the interior of the boutique itself. The nostalgic feel of the brand served as an alternative to the rise of minimalist trends and op-art.
Biba was more than just a style legend, it was an iconic shop for the ‘Swinging London’ era. It was also a brand that played a key role in the retro craze of the 1960s and ‘70s. The brand was founded in 1963 by Warsaw-born Barbara Hulanicki (born in 1936) with her husband Stephen Fitzem-Simonem. By 1964, the couple had opened their Biba shop at 87 Abington Road. Two years later they moved the shop to Kensington Church Street, and in 1974, they arrived at Kensington High Street at „Big Biba’, which they ran until 1976.
Like no other brand had done before, Biba’s shops gave customers access to unique goods, as well as a unique ambiance. The key to its success was placing their focus on the customer experience. The shop’s mood and decor acted upon on the senses, including taste and smell. The space was intricately designed in every aspect, from the children’s section – where children were entertained by an animator to the Rainbow Restaurant, where Liberace and Marlene Dietrich performed. All of the goods they sold (not only clothing, but also toys, cosmetics and food) were priced affordably and reflected the singular retro style that Hulanicki was known for, composed of a mix of art deco, art nouveau and Hollywood glamour. These influences shaped the look of her shop and the shape of her clothing designs.
Jeans: the ideal item of clothing for anyone, anytime, anywhere, easily paired with anything. Denim was such a big trend that some people opted for a head-to-toe blue jean look. In the 1970s, on average, a pair of jeans sold every minute in the West. In Poland, on the other hand, getting one’s hands on some jeans was not as easy.
The most popular way to style a pair of denim trousers was to pair them with some ‘50s-era threads for an eclectic look. Blue jeans were the star of Polish street style – and of Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble (1976), with its treasure chest of style inspirations.
Athletic styles began trickling down into mainstream fashion in the 1970s. Sneakers, shorts and backpacks made their way onto the streets, while fashion designers began incorporating sportswear into their collections.
he current also flowed in the other direction, as designers began creating custom uniforms for sports teams, such as Grażyna Hase and her patterned knitwear, worn by Poland’s football team during the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.