Oldster Get-Together, 1978

Party78What’s the occasion? I’ve been trying to figure out a story to go with this thrift store photo for a quite awhile. There are two generations—the middle aged (40-50 year olds) and perhaps a few of their parents. Was this a birthday party? A bridge club dinner? A quick drink before friends headed different ways? The puzzle in part lies in the very different kinds of clothes these people wear.

Some fashion historians see the 1970s as the era when common rules of dress flew out the window and people began to wear whatever suited them. “If by fashion we mean some generalised style worn by a class or a community, [it] is being replaced by anarchy,” wrote Quentin Bell his 1976 book On Human Finery.

While “anarchy” is too strong a word for this photo, there is certainly a wide range of  dressy and casual clothes. The dyed blond center right is dressed up in a filmy black number, as if she were heading out to the opera. She hugs another party goer wearing a knit turtle neck sweater. The woman on the far left has on an ill-fitting casual dress, while the red head on the right is in what looks to be a knit suit. And while I’m mainly interested in women’s clothes, what about that wild tie on the gentleman on the left, the most casual of all the men? Did he pick it out to coordinate with his wife’s dress?

At least in this crowd, pastels were a popular choice. So were knits. And we can see that red hair dye was already a phenomenon in the seventies.

I’d love to hear the story you would spin to match the photo.

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6 Responses to Oldster Get-Together, 1978

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    I think they are a bunch of co-workers gathered for some kind of celebration. They aren’t in couples, except for the two on the left, and she doesn’t seem comfortable with the arm around her. I worked in an office in the early 70s. We had our own “blond in the fancy black dress”. She wore her dyed platinum blond hair in an impressive beehive (very sexy at the time) and wiggled her hips when she walked. I still remember her name though have forgotten every other name in that office. I wonder what she looks like, now, 40 years later.

  2. The lady in the sheer black dress is also the only one wearing a corsage. The man pointing to her may be wearing a tuxedo. Is she the guest of honor at a Retirement party? Maybe it’s an anniversary celebrated with friends? The young couple might be their kids.
    There are both evening bags and daytime purses on the table — so word of the dress code didn’t get out to everyone (or some of the guests came straight from work.)
    The guy in the vivid striped tie has tried to coordinate it to his blue and white plaid polyester jacket and red (polyester) trousers. Those 70’s polyester mix and match suits were very popular with high school administrators in Bakersfield, CA, in the 1970s — often worn with white patent belts and white patent loafers. (When a male teacher began dressing this way, we said, “He has white shoe fever:” a desire to be promoted to district administration. ) The bar/restaurant also reminded me of a popular bowling alley/restaurant there in the Central Valley. There are probably thousands of places like that — but at least we know this gathering wasn’t in a “dry” state!

  3. eimear says:

    it could be a retirement party and either blondie is overdressed or heading somewhere after or she likes to dress up….. the lady in the green on the left isnt impressed by the man beside her or maybe its something in the moment. the smile of the lady in the red goes right to her eyes, where and some of the other smiles are automatic – as the smile we give when we are having the photo taken – but in all it looks like a happy night. also it looks like the ladies were chatting at the table, and the men at the bar and then all brought together for the photo. looks like the drink was flowing, wondering what they looked like the next morning!!!

  4. Jen O says:

    “Mad Men reunion: 10 years later”

  5. donna says:

    This looks like a Holiday Inn and the woman in the sheer sleeves is the cabaret singer at the bar in the next room. The younger guy is her son. Oh I don’t know but it does look like the Holiday Inn in my town in the late ’70’s. My office always had their Christmas party there.

  6. donna says:

    ….or a class reunion. There’s always one woman there, who dresses “big”.

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