The ‘70s are having a major fashion moment. Trends like relaxed silhouettes and bohemian patterns are back in a big way, and there’s also a nostalgia for the decade that can be seen throughout pop culture. So the HBO series,Vinyl, couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
Vinyl follows a New York music executive—played by Bobby Cannavale, who also happens to be featured in Barneys’ upcoming Bruce-Weber-lensed campaign, “Our Town”—as he navigates the city’s diverse music scene in an era that saw the coexistence of rock, punk, and disco. And just as important to telling the Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger-produced story as the period’s iconic music, the series’ costumes tap into the signature styles of the ‘70s, yet feel amazingly wearable today.
To find out more about bringing these looks to the screen and why they feel so relevant, we chatted with Vinyl’s costume designer, John Dunn. “When fashion revisits an earlier period, the really horrible stuff usually gets left in the closet, and a truly interesting visual conversation happens between the past and the present,” Dunn told us. “The current ’70s revival is a stellar example of this.”
Period pieces are nothing new for Dunn, who also worked on Boardwalk Empire, Factory Girl, The Notorious Betty Page, Casino, and Basquiat. But one advantage of working on a ‘70s-set series like Vinyl is the amount of readily available reference material. “There is a wealth of film and photo documentation to explore,” Dunn told us. “For this first season, we assembled several books of photo research and a film library covering everything from The New York Dolls to a bat mitzvah in Long Island circa 1973. Those become my bibles for how to approach the clothing for each of the main characters and the background extras as well.”
Beyond that, there’s also a much wider selection of genuine vintage pieces from which to pull options for the series. “When we were pulling vintage pieces for Boardwalk Empire, we often unearthed trunks of gorgeous, intricately-beaded gowns, but time has taken its toll and they would literally disintegrate in our hands,” Dunn says. “Seventies polyester has a longer shelf-life, so there are a lot of terrific wearable pieces still around.”
These vintage pieces are seen in every episode—Dunn says the show’s costumes are about 90% repurposed vintage pieces and about 10% newly constructed pieces made for specific actors. Either way, the costumes allow actors another way to access inspiration for their characters, Dunn says. “With contemporary projects, it’s sometimes harder for actors to separate themselves from their own notions about what does and doesn’t work on their bodies, clothing-wise. With period projects, they are freer to explore what their character could look like in a different time and not hold onto their own personal self image.”
If you’re looking to bring a bit of ‘70s style to your own wardrobe, Dunn offers a piece of advise: “You know I love wearing beautiful vintage pieces, but only mixed with the best of now.” Too keep things looking fresh, both vintage and vintage-inspired pieces can be mixed and matched with new options you’ll already find in your closet. For Dunn himself, there are a few trends he’s glad to see making a resurgence. “Boots and bellbottoms. Vintage custom rocker leather by East West. Anything and everything Biba.” And what does he hope stays in the past where it belongs? “Plaid polyester.”
Vinyl premieres on HBO on Sunday, February 14th at 9 p.m., but if you’re feeling inspired right now, see below for an example from Barneys new spring Window book to see how this trends comes to life today. For more ’70s-inspired pieces, head to Barneys to shop our picks for the best of the decade’s trends.