It’s difficult to really get your head around a moment in time that’s not your own. Even with a deep knowledge of the dry facts and figures of history, and even with a period as recent as the 1970s. Fortunately, we have the Fall/Winter 1977 edition of the JC Penney catalog, which really conveys the experience.

For instance, this brown makes me so depressed I could just run right out and vote for Ronald Reagan.

Christ, where did they do this catalog shoot, the Bates Motel? The paint on the lower half of that window seat is peeling.

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If you were in the market for a wardrobe purely in dull shades like Stagflation Burgundy and Malaise Orange, boy did JC Penney have you covered.

If you’re looking for some sort of blouse besides turtleneck, you obviously have to go either cravat style or pussy bow. Sorry. No other option.

If you weren’t looking for some mud-and-pastel combination, by the way, the alternative was colors so stubbornly cheerful, so determinedly upbeat, that it’s almost frightening. One of these ladies is definitely about to rip your fucking face off. The question to keep you awake at night—which one?

The women in this catalog do seem rather prone to ominous flocking. For instance, these dames. Yes, those are gaucho pants with vests and turtlenecks.

These women are absolutely, unquestionable, up to something. That one in the right is definitely the ringleader, standing there in her pussybow blouse, looking real sure of herself.

Gotta say a leotard with tights sounds a hell of a lot more comfortable than these nightmare lace-up gauchos which, please note, are available in both woven cotton and polyester midwale (no idea) corduroy. Can you imagine sound these made coming off? Frankly it’s a miracle anybody managed to have sex even once during this decade.

This is what passed for “the young look.” My goodness, how far brands have come—now they can deploy language like “on fleek” to advertise stuff that’s every bit as dorky!

I know what you’re thinking—there’s no explanation or excuse for this one. But have you considered that maybe it was just more economical to wear the same dress both to prom and for your appearance in the annual church Nativity play?

Don’t worry though—they have a wider array of evening wear. It just all looks like the nightgowns my grandmother used to wear. Which were, admittedly, great nightgowns.

There’s even something for the blushing bride.

Apparently maternity wear hasn’t changed much, though, because that plaid number sure looks familiar.

Jumpsuits: For when you want to feel like a sexy mechanic in a science fiction movie.

Of course, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and there is one section of the JC Penney catalog that remains downright shoppable nigh on four decades later, and that’s the coats. I would wear any one of these coats, and you could probably order most of them off Modcloth this very minute.

Not these rabbit fur coats, though. Hard pass.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

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