Studio 54 Outfits, Fashion, Style, and History

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Jan 02, 2024

When the famous nightclub of the late 1970s opened its doors in New York, there was one rule: “Anyone who was allowed in was totally free inside.” The rise and fall of the nightclub was captured in stunning Polaroids that Matt Tyrnauer pieced together in his documentary, “Studio 54.”

While many of us didn’t get to live the legacy of the nightclub, there is plenty of video footage of the neon-lit dance floor and iconic fashion that survived. Let’s get into the history of the famed Studio 54 and the best looks.

What Was Studio 54? 

The world-famous Studio 54 nightclub was located in the rundown neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan in the late ’70s. The old theater-turned-nightclub was purchased by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Drafted to transform into a club every single night by Tony Award-winning lighting expert Paul Marantz, the old theater was given new life on a budget of $400,000.

Unspecified clubbers in elaborate costumes, waving sparklers, as Studio 54 reopens in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, 16th September 1981. The club had been closed for about a year.

Source: UPI/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The disco club was known for its exclusivity, famous clientele, and casual attitude toward open club drug use.


Studio Was Only Open for 33 Months

The success of the nightclub was short-lived (33 months, to be exact). By the end of 1978, the Studio had become the most famous club in the world! Pictures show queues that flooded the street and wrapped around the block.

Manhattan's reknowned disco and nightclub Studio 54 is located at 254 West 54th Street.

Source: michael norcia/Sygma via Getty Images

Rubell once bragged to the press that “only the mafia made more money,” but the IRS had a few questions about the money the two club runners were actually making (via The Telegraph).

The Death of the Nightclub

An IRS investigation found that Schrager and Rubell had been fixing the books to show that they were making less money. Studio 54 was forced to close after Schrager and Rubell were each sentenced to three and half years in prison for tax evasion in 1980.

Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager outside of Studio 54

Source: Photofest

Before the two closed the doors, the decision to throw a closing party the night before the club owners were sentenced was made, and Diana Ross performed live.

Where Are Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager Today?

Steve Rubell died on July 25, 1989. Due to his late-night activities, his immune system was heavily compromised, and the virus progressed to AIDS. Rubell’s official cause of death is listed as hepatitis and septic shock complications caused by AIDS.

Steve Rubell outside of Studio 54

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Schrager is still alive and runs a hugely successful Edition chain of boutique hotels. Schrager notes that his time running Studio helped him learn “how to create that magic out of thin air” (via British Vogue).

The Club’s Legacy 

There is one thing that is undeniable about Studio 54: It was the blueprint for clubbing democracy. Sure, not everyone could get in, but the dance floor welcomed anyone who got through the doors. Nobodies and somebodies mingled in the neon-lit night.

Singer Diana Ross, squatting atop disc jockey booth in Studio 54, entertains merrymakers at farewell party for co-owners Steve Rubell (lower right, in sweater) and his partner, Ian Schrager (not pictured).

Source: Getty Images

“The characters who were the real inhabitants of the club — a very eccentric, very gay, sometimes transgender crowd — represent the kind of Manhattan that vanished,” Matt Tyrnauer told British Vogue, “in part cause of the HIV/AIDS crisis but also because of the way New York progressed from being a down at the heels bedlam city to being a wealthy, polished and cleaned up place.”


Studio 54 Outfits We Can’t Forget 

While the party can’t last forever, the images of best fashion moments have. From disco clothes to some of the best men’s fashion of the ’70s, we are still getting outfit ideas from Mick Jagger’s fanned-out waves, Donna Summer’s disco curls, Grace Jones’ Egyptian queen makeup, and Debbie Harry’s bright pink cheekbones.

The interior of Studio 54

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Whether you are looking for disco ’70s Studio 54 fashion inspiration or costume ideas for your next party, here are some of the best looks to come out of the famed New York nightclub.


Bianca Jagger Riding a White Horse

Forget the muted tones and casual night out. The disco fashion was a kaleidoscope of clashing colors and wild prints. Anything eye-catching was fair game, including riding in on a white horse to show off your designer gown.

Bianca Jagger rides in on a white horse at during her birthday celebrations at Studio 54 in New York, May 1977.

Source: Rose Hartman/Getty Images

While fashion was a form of self-expression, anything went. Bianca Jagger rode into Studio 54 on a white horse, capturing everyone’s attention and imagination to what was really happening in the exclusive club.


Grace Jones Sparkling in the Night

Studio 54 fashion was all about the shine and sparkle. Sequins, metallic, and anything that could capture the light of the disco ball were popular. It didn’t matter how you wore the sequins. As long as you are sparking in the night.

Jamaican-born singer and model Grace Jones (center) attends a party (organized by Interview magazine) at Studio 54, New York, New York, June 1979.

Source: Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images

Some of the best examples seen at Studio include Grace Jones, Donna Summer, and Liza Minnelli, who all wore gorgeous sprinkling ensembles that were covered in shimmering fabric.


Cher’s Blue Eye Shadow and Cowboy Hat

Did we mention that boldness was the normal Studio 54 look? You don’t have to wear a bold outfit to make a statement. Instead follow Cher’s go-to blue eye shadow look that complemented her simple cowgirl look.

Cher at Studio 54, New York, New York, mid to late twentieth century.

Source: Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Bold eye looks have become increasingly popular these days, so why not lean into disco-inspired eye makeup? Think Priscilla Presley’s iconic makeup or Twiggy’s bold graphic eyeliner. A bold single color and eye mascara can turn any outfit into something on brand for a Studio themed party outfit.


Go Simple for Big Fun

Don’t go shopping for a big fun outfit! Instead, pull out your favorite pair of jeans, a torn-up graphic tee, and some strappy heels, like Diana Ross. Her simple-yet-stylish outfit captures the beauty of the club and its carefree nature.

Diana Ross and actor Richard Gere arrive at Studio 54, the New York disco, late August 14. As cameramen gathered around, Gere moved out of range.

Source: Getty Images

Again, if you want to elevate this look a bit more, then wear some bold eye shadow or do your hair up in a fun, bouncy way. Just remember that some hairstyles can age you in unfaltering ways.


Disco Outfits for the Men

We haven’t forgotten about you, men. While most men in the Studio wore suits that captured their energy, some men often played with gender norms in clothes. However, suits were the norm. Mick Jagger, with his blown-out hair, graced the Studio with a white suit and in-style tie.

Mick Jagger at Studio 54 at Bianca Jagger's birthday party - NYC - 1977

Source: Getty Images

Men’s disco fashion embraced the mono-color outfits, jumpsuits, and details that didn’t shy away from feminine details. Embrace the fluidity and defy expectations of what should be “in style.”