Decade of infamy? Or just innocent fun?

With an assist from the irreplaceable Mr. Frump (thanks, hon!), I recently came across this priceless interview with Christopher Knight.  If you don’t know who he is, you are either much younger than I or, even worse, you actually had a life during the 1970’s. The rest of us know that Knight starred as Peter, the awkward middle son on TV’s family classic, The Brady Bunch.

Do read the interview, please; you’ll thank me later.  (And you have to go through the whole slide show.  I know it’s a lot of clicks, but trust me, it’s worth it!)  Essentially, Knight’s main point is that he had little to no control over what he wore on the show.  He was a minor; others were dressing him; the ’70’s were what they were; it wasn’t his fault.

Fair enough.  But of course, the interview sent me reeling down Memory Lane.  Because I, naturally, did not have a life during the 1970’s.  Like many suburban children, I lived for my TV shows.  I won’t say that I was obsessed……. but I did send fan mail to Brady Bunch stars.  I looked forward to watching the show.  I wanted to be Cindy Brady.

And, to this very day, when I think of Richard Nixon, I don’t remember that he engaged in dirty politics, lied to the nation about it, and resigned in disgrace.  Oh no.  What I remember about Nixon is that he was at least partially responsible for those damned Watergate hearings, which cancelled The Brady Bunch for a long, long time.

I must confess, though; I was not loyal to the Bradys.  I was also seeing The Partridge Family on the side.  I was a TV slut; what can I say?  Hey, if one wacky TV family is good, two must be better, right?

The shows had a lot in common:   Unconventional families; large numbers of good-looking, wise-cracking children; wacky hijinks; spontaneous musical numbers.  And, of course, those delicious, delightful excesses of ’70’s fashion.  But the deeper you look, the eerier the similarities become.   Let’s begin:

The Matriarch

Carol Brady:

Shirley Partridge:

Both are widows; both are blonde; both are wearing humongous collars that threaten to swallow them whole.

Both are also perky, blonde and attractive, but not too perky or attractive, if you know what I mean.  In the ’70’s, there were no MILFs.  The very idea of a MILF would have horrified us, no matter what ugly rumors you may have heard about Florence Henderson’s “did she or didn’t she?” affair with her TV “son” Barry Williams.

But I digress.  Moving on:

The Glamor Girl:

Marcia Brady:

Laurie Partridge:

Ah, the glossy hair, the pristine skin, the clear, vacant eyes.  1970’s female beauty at its finest!  Yes, they’re lovely.  But why is it that during the 1970’s — supposedly one of the defining, watershed moments in modern feminism — our heroines were so very childlike?  Pure china dolls, untouchable, unknowable….. and unattainable as a beauty ideal for those of us who were unlucky enough to look up to them.

But that’s such a downer.  Let’s move on:

The “Father” Figure

Mike Brady:


Ruben Kincaid:

Sure, the similarity starts with a bad weave and a cheesy expression, but it doesn’t end there.  Ruben Kincaid was the Partridge Family band’s manager: harried, sexless, providing fatherly guidance while having no inner life, let alone a love life, of his own.

Mike Brady, on the other hand, was the perfect All American father:  similarly sexless, steadfastly and joylessly embodying virtue at all costs, never even intimate with his own wife, for God’s sake. We now all know he was played by an unhappy actor, struggling with both his own closeted homosexuality and the slow death of all his theatrical and artistic aspirations.  This, of course, just adds to the myth.

Damn, this post was supposed to be light-hearted!  Were the 1970’s really this dark and twisted?  Let’s look for some relief:

The Awkward Middle Son:

Peter Brady:

Danny Partridge:

Ah, much better!  Aren’t they cute?  Aren’t they wholesome?  Look at those mischievous grins, look at those adorable freckles.  We know that Christopher Knight actually had a life after The Brady Bunch: he dated figure skater Tai Babilonia, he appears to be married now, we’re told he’s had a successful career in high-tech business and marketing.  And as for Danny Bonaduce, um…….. never mind.  Let’s leave that one alone.

Now I’m depressed.  There’s only one way to end this, of course.  With gloriously awful, fabulously over-the-top, deliciously 1970’s fashion excess.

The Big, Closing Production Number

The Brady Bunch:

The Partridge Family:

Well, the Bradys clearly win.  This photo captures that over-the-top, Bob Mackie, variety-show look that we all remember so well.  But don’t dismiss the relevance of the Partridges’ photo.  There’s something about that uniformed look — the hair, the matchy outfits, the pose.  I’m pretty sure there’s a family portrait lurking in my closet that looks a little bit like that.  I have some dim, murky memories of corduroy jumpers and oddly-colored velvet vests.

But discussing my 1970’s fashion nightmares is, blessedly, beyond the scope of this particular post.  We don’t need to go there.  After all, I’m not a celebrity!  My childhood pictures don’t live forever on the Internet.

How about you?  Do you remember Brady/Partridge fashions?  What were you wearing at the time?

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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50 Responses to Decade of infamy? Or just innocent fun?

  1. I was more of a Mod Squad girl myself–just a little earlier than the Patridge/Brady bunch!

  2. Violet says:

    I was a Brady girl, although I did enjoy the Partridges on occasion. That Dynamite cover cracked me up – I LOVED Dynamite!

    As for myself, I remember the peach Qiana maxi skirt with matching vest worn over a flowered peasant blouse…the quilted, A-line, maxi skirt paired with a white cotton blouse with tuxedo-like ruffles down the front…the polyester double-knit ensemble of navy pinafore and a blouse with a collar so big and droopy it was like red, white, and blue Bassett hound ears around my neck. All of them were Dy-no-mite!

  3. Gina Mortenson says:

    Loved your post…what a great trip down memory lane! I totally identified with Jan and just wanted Marsha to get a zit for God’s sake! These days, I just wish I could burn the many 70’s photos I have of me wearing my groovy “Flick my Bic” t-shirt…. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  4. wineguider says:

    Let’s get it over with: pants with multi-colored, vertical stripes. Anybody know a good shrink?
    -Wineguider, http://www.wineguider.wordpress.com

  5. I loved the Wonder Years growing up. But as for style, I think 90210 was more influential for my generation. Great post!

  6. Kate says:

    I did love the Brady Bunch! And I also have some vague recollections of loud blouses and wide bottomed (Oh, dead lord, don’t make me say bell-bottomed) pants. I was pretty young and I was also being dressed by someone but polyester knew no age restraint!!!

    Thank you for this!

  7. CrystalSpins says:

    I wasn’t around during the 70s — but re-runs were around in the 80s and 90s. I feel nostalgic about this as if I were actually there. Thanks for the walk down after-school-memory lane.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  8. cala4lily says:

    I of course avoided all fashion faux pas, any photo’s that say otherwise are blatantly my mother’s fault since she dressed me at that time, yeah, we’ll go with that. I do not remember anything particularly heinous for myself (forced amnesia) but I do remember one of my friends having baby-blue bell-bottoms with Shawn Cassidy’s face smiling from each ankle flare. I was still in elementary school so, thankfully, most of the ’70s has memories of kick-the-can more than fashion nightmares — and I am also thankful that I am not famous so I do not have to worry about photos surfacing on the internet!

  9. slovie64 says:

    How dare you allow the Brady’s to win over the Partridge Family! although I adored both shows, let’s face it…Partridges win hands down. They were professionals, while the Brady kids were a pack of garage practicing hacks…

    Oh, wait…the Partridges practiced in the garage too.

    Oh well. At least Tracy played a mean tambourine. What did Bobby & Cindy do besides act cute and charming?

  10. gigi says:

    I always preferred Jan and was also a TV slut, though my taste, then and now, runs more to cop shows than sitcoms.

  11. markp427 says:

    Oh, I had some horrible clothes I wore. My mom sewed the whole family matching striped polyester shirts…ugh…let’s not go there.

    At least this didn’t come down to a “Sunshine Day” vs. “I Think I Love You” smackdown. Not sure who’d win that particular battle…

  12. sayitinasong says:

    Yes, I was wearing them…lol… and I have pictures to prove it…lol. I always somehow thought of the Partridge as the Brady copycats… even though they had Cassidy who was way hotter than any of the Brady boys…lol.

  13. rtcrita says:

    I also remember, and lived for, watching these shows–as well as the Mod Squad. I remember Marcia and Jan wearing the plaid and pleated mini-skirts with knee-high socks, while Cindy wore the little white bobby socks.

    My first year in high school I begged my mother to let me buy a pair of platform shoes that were soooo…in style back then. Her and my dad kept saying my sisters and I would fall and break our ankle on those things! Finally, my mom gave in. I bought a pair of wedge platforms (“waffle-stompers” was what we use to call them) that had jute fabric around the sides of the platform and red bandana fabric on the top. Then I bought a pair of “elephant leg” bell bottom hip-huggers in red to match. I was so happy on the first day of school as I walked up the sidewalk, “struttin’ my stuff!” Ahhhh… the good-old days!

  14. simplifiedlogic says:

    I absolutely loved this post, why don’t you drop by my site sometime? http://mrnotsocool.wordpress.com/

  15. Jule1 says:

    I remember both of those shows well, although if I was partial to one, it was “The Partridge Family”. “The Brady Bunch” was too wholesome and hokey. I well remember those huge collars and vests and wore them myself. On a pre-teen/teenager those styles looked fine. It was when we shamed my dad into dressing in leisure suits and huge collars that the look became too uniform (and ludicrous), and those weirdo family portraits started to appear. Bob Mackie was a little beyond my means and let’s be realistic — the stuff they have on, though cheesy-looking now, was very theatrical, well made, and not for daytime, you know? While the PF’s wardrobe was more down to earth, more like what real folks wore, which is why looking at those pictures is nostalgic for me, because I actually wore clothes just like that. And no, I don’t ever want to go back to that fashion era, thank you very much. Once was enough!

  16. vmichael says:

    I can’t prove that every man, woman and child in America was on drugs in 1975, but there is no other fathomable explanation for the fashions they wore.

  17. I would never wear those clothes. They were too psychedelic for my tastes in some ways. And, thank god, my mother never made us do the matching outfit portrait. But, man oh man, I loved those shows.

  18. DL Fields says:

    I think both shows were popular in the early ’70’s; around the time I went to first grade. I caught them on reruns.
    The shows I remember from my childhood were Chico and the Man, Sonny and Cher (gasp, those outfits!), Barney Miller. My mother didn’t like Maude and I caught One Day at a time in reruns because Dad thought the show was “too risque.”

  19. Mike Brown says:

    This rocks!

  20. Jenn says:

    Ah the 70’s. Bobby Sherman was H-O-T and I had looked a lot like Danny Partridge even though I’m a girl. Oh those cruel 70’s fashions! LOL.

  21. I sure wish we had shows like that now. I even miss Leave It To Beaver! Interesting comparison you did with the two different (similar) shows. Nice work. Thanks for sharing.
    http://lonestargayle.wordpress.com/

  22. Cindy says:

    oh my gosh I loved that you hit freshly pressed this morning!
    I grew up in the brady era. This post killed me! I wrote one a few weeks about ago about why you shouldn’t let TV raise your kids.

    aaaahhhhh

    love it here!
    thanks for the belly laugh!

  23. sandyvanasch says:

    I lived through all those people and TV shows you outline in your blog. It was a better time to live and grow up. I know there will be people who disagree with me but I lived through such a wonderful time in my life. There wasn’t the smut and filthy language that we hear today. The sit-coms of today are a disgrace–morally and in every other respect. More people had morals and went to church and believed in God back in the 1950–1960’s.
    Thanks for taking me down memory lane.
    Sandra Van Asch

  24. Great post! We were all so lucky to grow up in that era! Fond memories of rushing home to watch the Brady’s!

  25. I’ll admit it, but only right here: I had feathered bangs, brown corduroy EVERYTHING, giant collars and a Partridge Family lunchbox.

    Come on, you know you’re thinking it: H-O-T. 😉

    Great post – makes me wistful for a less fashionable time…

  26. robertforto says:

    Awesome post! Thank you.

  27. ryoko861 says:

    Overalls. I lived in overalls. Or just loose fitting jeans. Flannel shirts. Just a total slob.

    But I loved the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. Used to love Barry Williams! David Cassidy did nothing for me. Faithful watcher.

  28. I so remember that time of Golden Harvest tupperware, avocado appliances and burnt orange countertops…..I owned (or was given and forced to wear) some of those same kinds of clothes….cords, wide collared paisly shirts and so forth. Fortunately I burned all the evidence that I was ever a part of that fashion meltdown! Thanks for the memories!

  29. kathyaa says:

    I must say i love all the pictures. So vintage.
    I also love the brady bucn and the patridge family.

  30. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! I wanted to be Jan! I loved her long blonde hair and I’d wear a yellow towel wrapped around my head prancing in my nightgown pretending I had her gorgeous locks! Thanks for taking me down memory lane… awesome!

  31. stop stop memories are coming back… the fake patent sock boots, the bought-in-kit-form-from Jackie-magazine turquoise cord trouser suit and the smock tops that followed,the bonkers pendants made from nails and argh sorry I have to stop there, really, its too much. Why do you think I moved on to wearing black in the eighties ?I DID MY PENANCE

  32. Congrats on Freshly Pressed Anne!
    I also grew up in the 70s! Loved the Brady Bunch! And Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons. Yep, they sure don’t make shows like they used to! And I always wanted an Alice. My mom wasn’t much of a housekeeper, or mother for that fact, but I digress. It always looked to me like Alice was the glue that held that bunch together!
    Bernice
    http://bernicewood.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/a-season-of-change-for-me-and-for-my-blog/

  33. Gail says:

    Over here on the island (UK) I’m not sure we had the Brady Bunch – we only had three channels in the 70s – but we did have the Partridge Family and I remember it soooo well. Along with Wacky Races and Scooby Doo. You certainly took me back with your memories…..I revisited my terrible 70s and 80s fashion sense a while back and dared to post a few horror pics: http://chat1960vintage.blogspot.com/2010/07/creative-dressing-alert.html

  34. This is a great post! I so relate to it. I wanted to be Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. I also watched the P Family – I loved Keith!
    My mom dressed me in brown, orange, yellow and green – bell bottoms, platforms, etc. I have to find some pictures!
    I enjoyed this post so much. Thanks.

  35. ZippyChix says:

    I loved both shows. Brady was my fave and I can remember racing home on my bike to watch it the one night a week that it was on ( my recollection is that it was Thursdays, but I could be wrong). Thanks for the walk down memory lane…it made me smile!

  36. chichichic says:

    i remember the fashions (although only from reruns and pics) and i must say, i love marcia’s hair (as completely unattainable as it is – I found out in my teens…) Brady’s win for sure, they’re like liza minelli’s wardrobe threw up on them. isn’t that fab??

    bisous!

    Justyna

  37. Melinda says:

    Well. I remember both shows and being tremendously happy with my blue minidress, white go-go boots, and happy face necklace. Also my wonderful huge bell bottoms along with a fringed vest. Of course, there were some horrible things, too. Checked pants, pullover vests, and some very weird polyester shirts. No wonder I chose a high school “uniform” of jeans, work boots, and button down shirts (stolen from my father). The beginning of the end of my fashion sense. ; – )

  38. barrycyrus says:

    interesting! 🙂

  39. Thanks for all the great comments! Sorry I couldn’t personally reply to all, but I truly appreciate it.

  40. Never mind that I wasn’t conceived at this time, my parents hadn’t even met.. But I do feel that I missed out on something big by missing the 70’s.

    The biggest thing though.. I totally empathise with the difficulty of keeping a blog light hearted! What is it about a blog that draws out our inner cynic? Great post 🙂

  41. Whoa! That’s quite an orange and pink bonanza there in the Brady finale. I loved this post–it was all organized and intelligent and funny and stuff.

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