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1970 – 1980 New York Disco Culture and Fashion Look Books

In New York juxtapose of culture, nationality and language made young people pulse to beat with the music; small clubs appeared such as the Loft, Circus, Xenon and Paradise Garage in 1976.  Disco was made for dancing, and the traditional 7-inches vinyl grew to 12 inches as DJs mixed songs to make dancers absorb with the beat. In the early 1970s, the Gay movement and women’s liberation progressed, made people open up and proud. Village people, Grace Jones, Gloria Gaynor, Chaka Khan and Bee Gees made disco popularity grew and together with one of the greatest musicals from last century Saturday Night fever made it massive. DJs and doormen became brand-new stars, and club cultures grow strong, when Studio 54 opens their doors in 1977, it soon became the playground for celebrities.

Disco Roots and Inspiration

Disco music started in the club scene of NYC.  Club DJs would play song they would like and the club patrons would go into the record stores to by those songs.  The origin of disco music came from many different styles; a music constellation from Germany named Kraftwerk should be an early source of inspiration for black music as, they in the late 1960s explored brand new electronic instruments and however, strange it might sound their rhythm, and music was the perfect mix with black music to make the sound of disco.  Kraftwerk distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music; disco, hip hop and later the techno scene in Detroit and house . A German band from the early 70’s changed the way music sound. This German influence was further strengthened by the German electronic synth producer Giorgio Moroder; his record production made the sexy and dirty sound of Donna Summers 16 minutes breakthrough hit “love to love you babe.” Together with the sound of Motown records the party could start.

Love Saves The Day, Cocaine The Night


Disco music sexy sound, sweaty dances, drinks and long nights invited for a hedonistic lifestyle, the woman liberation and gay movement grow strong and made tremendous impact on fashion and nightlife. The new twelve-inch  records spinning twenty minutes non-stop dancing required something else, people wanted to be stay through the night and hardly change clothes before working next day. The solution of 1960s marijuana, peace and love did not work out; downers were out, but uppers got it right. It did not take long before the drug cartels of Colombia found out that the money was in Cocaine and not marijuana as before. Drug culture revolution in the 1960s made the fresh and popular drugs cocaine and poppers accepted in all layers of the population; in the fashion aspects of the club scene, these drugs enhanced the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights. In particular, the new liberation of Gay culture expanded the boarders of acceptable behavior; rampant promiscuity and public sex took place around the dance floors’ central arena; in bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. The most famous symbol of decadence and hedonistic night clubbing was a club that opened on Manhattan in 1977, named Studio 54.

Sex, Drugs and Studio 54


Modern hedonism was born the day Bianca Jagger rode in on a white horse at during her birthday celebrations at Studio 54 in New York, May 1977. Studio 54 could never open their doors if it wasn’t for trend-setting  clubs that came to embody the early spirit of disco The Gallery, Xenon, The Loft, and Paradise Garage that made clubbing popular enough to open such a large and expensive in New York. The loft was the first club that opened, Valentine’s Day 1970s hosted by the DJ David Mancuso. Studio 54 became soon a playground for cocaine celebrities, musicians, models, actors and artist.
The club was operated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager (they were later arrested for tax fraud) was during 1977 -1980 recognized as the most hedonistic night club in disco history, what did not happen inside studio 54 is not worth writing about? The sad thing is that most probably did the extreme indulgent part of culture destroy and was a major cause of disco downfall and death in 1980. Nevertheless, during those three yearlong parties the in-crowd danced the night away, with celebrities such as Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stallone, Diana Ross, Bjørn Borg, Donna Summers, and Grace Jones make headlines in media; as well, foundation for today’s club culture in Ibiza and elsewhere.  The party was wild; however, nothing lasts forever; the terror of AIDS that came around 1980 made people scare, and the club closed the same year after the campaign “disco sucks launched and made disco something from the past; the party was over.

Elivis, Las Vegas, Kung Fu and Disco Fashion


The result of this new music should soon be reflected in fashion. In Las Vegas, Elvis did three shows a night and his stage costumes became a result of his extravagant lifestyle; mixing karate moves in his dance performance and created a style wise a crossover of Kung Fu wear, glitter, golden wide boxing belts, flares and glossy fabrics the resulted in a jumpsuit. Disco music was made for dancing and therefore, fashion clothing became a mix of the late 1960s and early 1970s trends combined with stretchy and shiny fabrics as polyester. First of all, the stretch fabric was important because of fresh dance moves that required space; inspired from Kung Fu movies disco dancing was full of energy with high kicking legs. Secondly shiny and glitter pants and tops came as a result of the new lightning systems in the clubs; disco ball, strobe and even laser light required dancers to be seen.

Halston, Dian Von Furstenberg, Qiana


The most important designers made fashion for the night wrap dresses by Diane Von Furstenberg and Halston dresses for a woman, mandatory pattern polyester shirts for men by Qiana with extreme pointy collars, worn preferably open at the chest. Men should become more than ever a part of fashion and displaying jewelry, shiny and bright colors, patterns and platform shoes looking like peacocks in spring time.  The platforms came in 1971 despite helping the wide and long flare jeans from sweeping the ground the 15-20 centimeter high shoes were of none practical use else than making men as tall as girls wearing knee-high  heels boots.

Saturday Night Fever Made Disco Big Around The World

The film “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta as the character Tony should more than any other source dictate disco. The film was as important as Elvis, James Deanand Marlon Brando in the 1950s when rebelled the established style and became idols for a whole new generation of youngsters. When Tony ruled the dance floor wearing a three-piece suit of polyester with matching waistcoat, there was nothing else that mattered style and fashion wise. Combined with over dimensioned jewelry, bracelets and medallions on the bare chest the concepts were complete.

Hot Pants, Glitter and Wrap Dress


Hot pants were popular was one of the most liked fashions in the beginning of the 1970s. Hot pants were a kind of short, extremely tight and short; it could be worn any way possible. Another fashion was the wrap dress, seen in the movie “Saturday night fever,” introduced by Diane Von Furstenberg in 1972. This jersey stretch and polyester wrap dress was worn with high knee boots or sling back sandals. Disco was synonymous with glamour and therefore, glitter was recognized as a basic part of any costume, glitter was also made popular with 1970s glam music scene and used in fashion garment due to the low production cost, and in makeup as anything shines and sparkles were smashing.

Disco DNA

WHEN: 1970 – 1980
WHERE: New York
CULTURE AND INFLUENCE: the gay pride revolution and woman’s liberation was an important part in the rise of night clubbing in NY, blacks and guy clubs.
wrap dress, cat suits, jumpsuits
JEANS/PANTS: hipster jeans, bell bottoms, flares, hot pants (girls)
FABRICS: polyester, stretchy, shiny and reflecting fabrics for the night clubs light systems
SHOES: Platform shoes, high knee boots, sling back sandals.
SUNGLASSES: oversized glasses
SHIRTS: extreme pointy collars, open shirts, prints, floral, shiny
SKIRT: slit, mini, midi, maxi and micro skirt.
SUITS: three-piece suits, white polyester with matching waistcoat (John Travolta on Saturday Night Fever)
TOPS: Spandex, halter neck, silk blouses, spaghetti-strapped tank top, tube and silk blouses
ACCESSORIES: big hats, feather boas, slinky scarfs, turbans, shiny bling bling jewelry, roller skates, costume jewelry, medallions and large handbags
HAIRSTYLE: afro, facial hair, side burners, Long straight and flowing hair (girls), layered, glitter.
COLORS: white, silver, gold, black, vivid, floral patterns
FILMS: Saturday Night Fever
MEDIA: Top of the pops, Hustler and Playboy magazine
DESIGNERS AND BRANDS: Vanderbilt, Fiorucci, Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston, Qiana
PLACES: New York, nightclubs’ such as the Loft, Paradise Garage, Studio 54, The Gallery, Xenon
CLUBS: Studio 54, the Loft and Sanctuary
FAMOUS CLUBBERS: Bianca Jagger, John Travolta, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Stallone, the list is long
DRUGS: tons of Cocaine, poppers
GADGETS: disco ball, twelve-inch  records, Strobe and laser light, roller skates
IMPORTANT PEOPLE: doormen, DJ’s, drug dealers
DANCE MOVES: Hick hike, the walk, knee drops
MUSIC: happy sound, disco, Motown
ARTISTS AND DJ: DJ David Mancuso (the Loft), Larry Levan (the Loft later Paradise Garage), Village people, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Bee Gees, Chic, Sister Sledge, Tina Charles, Earth, Wind and Fire, Jackson’s, George McCrae, Carl Douglas, Thelma Houston, Sylvester, Eruption, Boney M
SONGS: “Love to love you babe,” “rock you babe,” “We are family,” “Le Freak,” “YMCA,” “In the navy,” “Clap your hands,” “Boogie wonderland,” “Kung Fu fighting,” “Don’t leave me this way,” “I can’t stand the rain”
ART: pop art, factory
ATTITUDE: flamboyant, outgoing, happy, decadent, hedonism, fashionable, multi – ethnic, self-confidence, prima donna, sexy, hot
FILM DOCUMENTARY: The Secret Disco Revolution, “When disco ruled the world” and other dance films such as Boogie Nights.

Useful Websites and Information:

Recommended about 1970s disco and pop culture
Recommended about yesterday, today and tomorrows disco music
Disco, a complete history, great blog  
Recommended, disco and fashion
Defining Decades, good overview of youth cultural movements  
Recommended fantastic images from the famous club Studio 54  
Recommended story about the Loft and DJ Mancuso  
Recommended disco DJ’s importance in the 1970s New York 
The film Saturday night fever recommended 

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