For Disco fans, this past week was difficult as we lost two of the great voices of the disco era. First, Donna Summer, then Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. Two disco greats are gone, but their global appeal and historical significance will live on. And so we take a minute to reflect on the dance-floor craze of yesteryear and the celebrities who made discotheques the “ground zero” for fashion, as they tripped the light fantastic to Donna Summer’s thunderous belts and the Bee Gees’ harmonic voices.
Disco music is one of the most infectious music styles, and one of the most universally liked. This early electro-pop mixed all the excesses music and technology could help bring into a single discotheque’s arena; the dance floor was not only for dancing, it became a place for self-expression and sartorial independence. Disco became a cultural phenomenon, reflected in a unique fashion perspective and distinct lifestyle patterns.
If you were to simplify and distill the disco era to two venues, Studio 54 and Chez Régine were the center of the disco world. If you were to simplify and distill the disco era to two cult icons, they would be John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and paparazzo-photographer Ron Galella. While Studio 54 and Chez Régine set a template for the Discotheque the world over, Saturday Night Fever and Ron Galella helped propagate and commemorate the style and era for posterity.
Getting ready for a night out at the clubs was an event of its own. Dress to impress was the mantra and it translated into glitter and sequins, bold color and animal prints and, of course, fur and feathers. If you had the body (and, unfortunately too often for some that didn’t) you showed it off in stretch fabrics, tight cuts and short shorts. If you had the money you showed it off too, in jaw-dropping black tie and sexy designer gowns. Nineteen-seventies fashion gets a bad rap in general – and unfairly so!
Among the sartorial “horrors” were the jaw dropping masterpieces of Madame Grès and Valentino, Halston and Yves Saint Laurent, to name a few, and then came Qiana and jumpsuits! Seriously, could the current fashion trends be anymore disco inferno? Currently, you could see some pretty young things sporting quasi-identical looks to what their grandmothers had worn 35 years earlier. Isn’t anything sacred? Not with fashion!
Disco was and still is as much a state of mind as it is a music style and fashion moment.
In the words of the Bee Gees, it is still and will always be “Stayin’ Alive”!
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