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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

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Revisiting the Iconic '70s Style of Pam Grier

Many people associate actress Pam Grier with her legendary 1970s film roles — a karate-chopping vigilante in Foxy Brown, a revenge-seeking nurse in Coffy, and a money smuggling flight attendant in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. As the first African-American woman to headline an action movie, Grier's influence runs deep. Her impact on style does too, and is a perfect encapsulation of the '70s styles popularized again today.

Pulling a gun from her bounteous Afro, Grier easily took down criminals while wearing of-the-moment crop tops and leather miniskirts, not to mention hip-huggers, halter tops, and gold hoop earrings. In celebration of the badass protagonist whose legacy spans decades, here are five of the her most iconic looks.


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1972

The '70s witnessed the rise of Grier's acting career after she made the move to Los Angeles from North Carolina in 1968. She got her start in a number of exploitation films, a niche genre fueled by sensationalistic depictions of sex and violence. By 1972, Grier landed her first supporting role in the film The Big Bird Cage where she played Blossom, the foul-mouthed girlfriend to Django, a guerrilla liberationist who stages a prison break at a female prison.

She lent a feminist vibe to the role, and the floral cropped button-down and denim hip-huggers she wore in this 1972 promotional image became a signature look for the trailblazing actress.

Getty Images: Michael Ochs


Getty Images: Michael Ochs

1973

Grier aligned herself with the new blaxploitation genre when she was cast as Coffy in a film of the same name. A sub-genre of exploitation, blaxploitation films featured primarily black casts and were originally created for the black audience. While these films did dabble in stereotypes, the actress often helped subvert them.

Grier's character in Coffy is hell-bent on killing all the men who aided her sister's heroin addiction. As the bottle-smashing, gun-wielding nurse she seduces each of her victims, making her "the baddest one-chick hit squad of all time," as the movie's tagline suggests.

In the film she wears a beige sweater dress and lace-up boots that bear a strong resemblance to the ones Giambattista Valli and 3.1 Phillip Lim sent down their fall 2015 runways.


1977

Grier dated a handful of men during the height of her blaxploitation career, from basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabar to fellow actor Freddie Prinze. But her most talked about romance was her relationship with comedian and actor Richard Pryor. The pair starred in the 1977 movie Greased Lightning in which Grier plays the wife of Pryor's character, the first black driver to win a major NASCAR title.

In her 2010 memoir Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, Grier alleges that the relationship ended due to Pryor's cocaine addiction — and the negative effects the drug was having on her vaginal health.

Here, she attends an event in Los Angeles alongside Pryor in an embellished white gown and a fur coat that could rival the hundreds that went down the fall runways.

Getty Images: Michael Ochs


Getty Images: Michael Ochs

1980

Grier began getting offered roles in larger motion pictures in the '80s, and in 1980 was cast in the Paul Newman film Fort Apache, The Bronx, which depicted the daily challenges facing a police precinct in the South Bronx.

Along with more serious roles came a change in her overtly sexy style. Here, she sports a tan coat and a mock-neck lace dress similar to the ones at Altuzarra and Valentino this past season, a notably conservative look for an actress who was, until now, seen in mostly in halters and tight jeans. The new decade also signaled a change in her usual Afro hairstyle.


1990

Throughout the '80s, Grier also made television cameos in everything from The Cosby Show to Mad TV. She landed a recurring role as NYPD detective Valerie Gordon on the hit show Miami Vice from the late '80s until the show's final episodes in 1990.

Gordon's wardrobe consisted of laidback basics. In the season five episode "Too Much, Too Late," she dons a variety of prints: a striped jacket, pinstripe cotton pants, and a floral belt to tie the look together. It's a far cry from her Foxy Brown days but a classic look nonetheless.

Getty Images: NBCU Photo Bank

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