The thirties began in the grip of turmoil. The Great Wall Street crash of 1929 (October 24) and the following depression had set a new direction for 1930s fashion. Gone were the flamboyant styles, the flapper dresses, cloche hats and boyish designs of the 20s as a more feminine quality returned to women’s fashion.
Waistlines displayed more of a curve and busts became prominent and rounded. The raised hemlines of the 20s were also gone with the hemlines of the thirties, once again, dropping to the ankles where it was to remain for most of the decade.
The Sears Roebuck Catalog of 1930 proclaimed,
“Thrift is the spirit of the day. Reckless spending is a thing of the past.”
The depression saw many women, out of necessity, starting to make and mend their own clothes rather than buying new ones. These economic hardships caused a dramatic drop in the production of 1930s fashion clothing when compared to the that of the 20s.
1930s fashion trends were not only driven by the economic hardships of the time, but also the hopes and dreams of the average person. People now wanted the glamor, the hype and the extravagance of the 20s. They saw it in the movies and read about it in the papers and tried to mimic this style as best they could.
The glamor of the twenties was now unobtainable for most and because of this, glamor became more significant in this decade than in any decade to come. For 1930s fashion, glamor became romantic, mysterious and spellbinding.
1930s Fashion and the Silver Screen
The silver screen soon became a common escape from the reality of life in the depression. Movie celebrities began endorsing fashion styles making accessories a highlight of 1930s fashion. Necklines started to plunge and waistlines were of a more sensuous shape accentuating the female silhouette. Empire-waisted gowns became popular. Fabric flowers and bows were often placed on the shoulder, or mid-waist or center neckline. The peplum also made a great appearance into 1930s fashion evening wear. For those that could afford it, fur was in style. Fur capes, stoles and wraps hung from women’s shoulders and dresses. Sable, mink, chinchilla and silver fox were in hot demand.
George Orwell wrote in 1937 “The girl who leaves school and gets a dead-end job can still look like a fashion-plate for a pittance. You may have pennies in your pocket and not a prospect in the world, and only the corner of a leaky bedroom to go home to; but in your new clothes, you can stand on the street corner, indulging in a private daydream of yourself as Marlene Dietrich…”
1930s Fashion – Future Predictions From The Past
The Bright Young People
Emerging from the 1920s but continuing right through the 30s was a group of young London socialites, which the press came to label, the “Bright Young People”. This group expanded the boundaries of social acceptance and through their actions and decadent lifestyle defined fashion and a new way of thinking. The Bright Young People were rebelling against the values and rules of the generation before them who, in their opinion, had become jaded due to experiencing the horrors of the Great War.
These social trendsetters would indulge in elaborate treasure hunts across London, which became so well renowned that the leading newspapers of the time started printing the treasure hunt clues. Living life from one party to the next, they would often race around London in cars drunk, causing utter mayhem. Notorious and well publicized (but exclusive) Bath and Bottle Parties became common. It was because of the antics of these people and the press that started following them that the first gossip columns appeared. Their influence on 1930s fashion styles was so strong that by simply wearing a new style of hat to a party could start a new trend by the following day. Rumor has it that Edward VIII (a style icon of the time) once appeared at a function with is bottom jacket button accidentally undone. Thinking this was the new ‘in style’ all the trendy guys at the function unbuttoned theirs to match, and the trend was born.
Coco Chanel 1930s Fashion Show
1930s Fashion For Men
Clothing manufacturers had long known that by continuously altering the style of clothing you could increase sales as people continue to buy to keep up with the trends. This, however, had not been applied to mens clothing… Not until the thirties that is.
Clark Gable was shown removing his shirt in a movie, exposing his bare chest. Soon, men all over the country were throwing away their undershirts as the trend took hold.
During the early part of the decade, single breasted jackets were the stylish look for men. Towards the end of the 30s, double breasted jackets became the style with a much higher jacket front than before.
The Female Form Returns to 1930s Fashion
Prior to the 1930s fashion for women hadn’t actually needed to be totally practical. Now women were becoming more productive during the day and so day wear had to become practical. Glamorous gowns were now kept for evening wear. Fabrics like metallic lame were becoming popular at night and were often enhanced with the addition of plastic sequins and glass beads.
1930s Fashion – Skirts
Skirts of the thirties were often shorter in front than at the back. Many of the clothes of this era were so stylish they could easily be worn today. Much of the appeal of these outfits came from using true bias cuts on draped fabrics. This style of design was also experimented with during the early 2000s.
New 1930s Fashion Fabrics
Designers waited eagerly for new rayon fabrics to be released onto the market but some designers were staying with known fabrics. Chanel was one of these designers. Through her inventive use of cotton she elevated what was considered a budget fabric to designer material status. But, as far as 1930s fashion was concerned, nothing came close to the look and feel of silk. Rayon, when properly died and cut could imitate the look and feel and silk to a certain extent and was commonly used in cheaper priced lingerie.
With the advent of nylons came something to change many women’s lives. Gone were the days of saggy, baggy stockings as nylon hosiery hit the market. The new hosiery also had the ability to enhance the look of the legs.
The Italian fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, despite her offbeat, surreal designs was just what classic style loving women of the 30s needed. Ladies who had no interest in the pastel chiffon’s of Vionnet turned to ‘Scap’s’ couture suits or jackets coupled with black dresses.
Schiaparelli would often accessorize with a touch of her own brand of humor. Funky hats that looked like mutton chops or ice cream cones were no unheard of. She was designing mens suits with shoulder pads well before the 80s had there power dressing phase. In 1933, a new idea caught her attention and she began promoting what we now know as the “Zipper”. Even though it had originally been invented in 1893 it was only being used for things such as shoes and tobacco pouches.
Other Interesting Sites For 1930s Fashion
- 1930s Fashion – Wikipedia’s page on 1930s fashion styles.
- 1930s Fashion Chart – An interesting chart illustrating the progress of 1930′s fashion styles
- 1930s Fashion Clothing – An Interesting look at what people were wearing in the 30s.