Waitresses at chain restaurants had to wear some funky uniforms in the 1970s

Perhaps "costume" is a better word.

Waiters today could pass for caddies. A polo shirt emblazoned with a logo tends to be the look for chain restaurants. It makes for easy care. 

Back in the 1970s, the staff had it a little harder. For starters, their uniforms were perhaps better classified as costumes. Westerns might have been fading away from television and movie theaters, but the cowboy look was alive and well in beef joints around America. Though, we're guessing authentic cowboys and cowgirls hardly wore this much polyester.

The color palette was full of browns, tans, oranges, burnt oranges and burgundies. Let's take a look at some of the quirkier restaurant uniforms of the Seventies. Do you remember these? Better yet — did you have to wear one of them?

1. Big Boy


The fly collar was fly enough to make Sally Field's Sister Bertrille soar into the air. It blossomed out of a brown short-sleeved top, covered in a striped smock.

Image: Big Boy

2. Bonanza


The actors on Bonanza sported some iconic costumes. Meanwhile, at the beef emporium inspired by the TV show, waitresses wore puffy, red plaid. A fat, floppy bow tie, embroidered with "Bonanza," hung down over a thick apron. 

Image: Homestyle Dining LLC

3. Chi-Chi's


The Mexican joint went full south-of-the-border-costume with its poofed blouses.

Image: Chi-Chi's

4. Howard Johnson's


In the 1960s, HoJo's order-takers wore the company's trademark sky-blue color. Perhaps you remember it from that one Mad Men episode. In the 1970s, the massive hotel/restaurant chain switched to its sherbet orange, complete with a gingham, snap-on apron.

Images: Howard Johnson's / Worthpoint



A frilly blue apron and skirt over a white blouse was the early look for the International House of Pancakes, which introduced the "IHOP" name in 1973. Oh, and just for fun, check out this bizarre IHOP commercial from the 1960s, which features the most psychedelic music of the decade. Seriously, it makes Pink Floyd sound like the Brady Bunch.

Image: IHOP

6. Pizza Hut


Not too bad, all things considered. But try getting tomato sauce out of a white top. Good thing it's polyester!

Image: Pizza Hut

7. Ponderosa


The sister chain to Bonanza had a more casual cowgirl look.

Image: Homestyle Dining, LLC

8. Red Lobster


A nautical theme, naturally. What else would you expect from a seafood joint? We do like the little red lobster embroidered on the left shoulder.

Image: Red Lobster

9. Roy Rogers


A bandana tied around the neck offered a pop of color. Though, with those fat belt buckles, this uniform had flair to spare.

Image: Roy Rogers

10. Sambos


With its mustardy earth tones, tans and deep reds, this get-up was practically camouflage inside every den and car interior of the 1970s.

Image: Sambos

SEE MORE: Fast food uniforms were far more colorful back in the 1970s


Things got even funkier in the fast food biz, mostly thanks to floppy hats. READ MORE

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Lillyrose 35 months ago
I loved Ponderosa! Their hamburgers were delicious!
TVFF 54 months ago
My first summer job was at a Sambos restaurant. The job sucked, but at least the waitresses were young and cute.
RobCertSDSCascap 58 months ago
Numbers 4 and 6.
Sjtilden RobCertSDSCascap 7 months ago
My experiences with Pizza Hut have not been Pleasant the food had made our family sick.
EmBee 68 months ago
Not a huge chain by any imagination, but Lawry's the Prime Rib for the longest time, had only female servers (changed only over the last 10 years or so) and since Lawry's was related to the Van de Kamps bakery (mass produced for supermarkets) (the VDK shelves were stocked by women wearing some sort of Dutch girl outfit. A similar costume was De rigueur at Lawry's right down to the Dutch girl hat. When men were finally allowed to be servers, a more uni-sex uniform was established.
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