1970s Pants Set by Stephen Burrows

A big part of my goal in developing my collection is to show when and how and what types of pants were being worn by women. The pair above shows one of the last hurdles women leaped over in the quest for bifurcation – pants as evening wear. In the 1950s women were wearing at-home evening ensembles, often with a long, open skirt over a pair of slim pants. But even in the late 1960s, the day of the tunic pantsuit, women were often denied entrance to restaurants when wearing pants. There are many stories floating around about women who stepped out of their pants and then were allowed to dine wearing only the tunic.

But just a year or two later, things were changing. Designers and fashion magazines were showing pants specifically designed for a night out.  Pants had clearly crossed the finish line, though there are plenty of instances of women being denied the right to wear pants even today.

The set above is by Stephen Burrows, who gained fame as a designer in 1968 when he was given a boutique space withing Henri Bendel, Stephen Burrows World. In 1973 he went independent with his own business and label. My set dates to that second period.  It was during this period of Burrow’s career that he participated in the famous “Battle of Versailles” in November of 1973.

Even when designing in black, Burrows managed to put in a color accent. He had become known for finishing the edges of his clothes with a zig-zag stitch, and he often did the stitch in red.

Both the tunic and the pants are made of three layers of sheer and floaty chiffon. The sleeves are just one layer, which leaves them sheer, giving a bare, but actually covered up look.

This is a magnified look at the little sparkly dots on the fabric. You can see that they are tiny metal strips that are clamped around the weave of the fabric. I can’t imagine how this was created. By hand? By machine?  A few of them are missing, mainly from the shoulders. That’s understandable.

The pants have been professionally altered to enlarge the waist.  At first this puzzled me, as the back of the elastic casing was overlocked, which made it look original as it continued over the added piece. A closer look revealed that the stitching was a bit uneven, and the Stephen Burrows label had been shortened in the process.

The alteration does not bother me, mainly because it does not affect the way the set displays. I will sometimes remove later alterations to a garment, but I plan to just leave this one as it is. The fabric is delicate, and I could end up doing more harm than good to the piece.

I spent several days engrossed in early 1970s Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, hoping to find this set featured. I wasn’t so lucky, but there was an editorial in one 1973 magazine that showed a very similar Burrows top along with a flowy pantsuit by another designer.

I was pretty darn tickled when I spotted this gem when visiting friends at Style and Salvage. I want to thank them for giving me first dibs and for the use of their photo. But most of all thanks for letting me hang out and interrupt your busy day. Vintage friends are the best!







Filed under Collecting, Designers, Proper Clothing, Vintage Clothing

11 responses to “1970s Pants Set by Stephen Burrows

  1. jacq staubs

    I remember / visited the Stephen Burrows Boutique at Henri Bendel. In 1975 I carried a collection of designer created by a Sr. VP.at Bendel..in my shop in Key West. She produced a collection ( using designer patterns) into casual care fabrics. I have a photo of a Burrows color block beach robe from it. If I can find it I will send it In 74 I recall evening PJ’s from him and Pierre Cardin and YSL at Garfinckel’s and – and evening pants- velvet / satin / and silk in jeans / culottes / cropped and even shorts!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been picking up his patterns from McCall’s. There are a couple that resemble this ensemble (it’s a standard look from the era) but nothing with that layered central panel. Thanks for the close up photos and detail on the ‘sparkles’


  3. I love this idea as part of your collection! I have also longed for one of those open skirts over pants sets! I have patterns for them, but have never taken the time to actually make it!


  4. Wow, I am so jealous-a Stephen Burrows piece. I’ve watched that fashion event and have done a bit of research because of the Fashion Calendar.

    Can you wear this? Are you going to wear this. I would so wear this! to so many fashion events!!!!!! Timeless. I read above that he had patterns for McCalls. i may settle for that. I think I will start hunting.


    • I can’t wear ir because I am too short for the pants, and I’m afraid I’d ruin the top as it is fragile in the places where the metal dots are missing. I have two of the Burrows patterns, and I made one of them some time ago.


  5. Dee

    The sparkly bits remind me a lot of assuit, though obviously, the background fabric is different. Lovely set.


  6. I love this. It’s too bad it cannot be worn safely. I am perpetually looking for the perfect black evening “suit” – ever since I saw a scene in the Annette Bening/Warren Beatty 1994 film “Love Affair”. Annette’s character enters an elevator on a cruise ship wearing a deep black chiffon pantsuit. The light behind her highlights the palazzo pants rendering them translucent. A great fashion moment on film that your Stephen Burrows reminded me of.


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