Sleek and stylish clothes that were modest and feminine – you can summarize the clothes of 1930s this way. Most of the clothes of this decade look as modern as any of today’s clothes.
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In 1929 something happened that had a direct impact on all aspects of life in the USA, and influenced fashion in a big way – The Wallstreet crash which is reported as the worst economic event in world history. Coming after the world war, this stock market crash in the world’s greatest economy and the subsequent depression had an equal impact on the economy of the whole world. There was unemployment, businesses were failing, and people did not have money to spend – and this reflected in the fashion of the times. Extravagant fashion was out of the house.
Clothes that were mass-produced gained traction. The economic problems of the decade precipitated this change from custom-made clothes to factory-made clothes.
During the 1920s flapper dresses with an emphasis on a more boyish silhouette were popular, but by the next decade, the spotlight was more on a feminine style. Drop waist style changed to a natural waist style. Shapeless short dresses were replaced by long gowns and dresses with an emphasis on a small waist.
In the 1920s short hemlines were in fashion but the 1930s saw hemlines becoming longer. Ankle-length hemlines were preferred.
Day dresses – Dresses were made in simple, easy to maintain cotton floral prints, plaids, and gingham fabrics. Dresses with semi-full skirts starting at the natural waist which emphasized a small waist was the usual fare.
Evening gowns – Bias cuts were popular in evening gowns. Fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet introduced bias-cut dresses and gowns which clung to the body sensuously. The bias cut complemented the female form in a very flattering way. Empire-waisted gowns were also favored. The tiered, layered or ruffled look was seen on skirts.
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Read more on bias-cut garments made by Madeleine Vionnet here.
The sleek silhouette was popular in the early part of the decade but by the end of the decade, the upper silhouette was boxy with strong shoulder lines. The upper part of the body was emphasized with shoulder pads, puffy sleeves, collars, capelets, etc. This made the female body seem delicate with a thinner waist and hips.
Rayon and Fur were very popular in the 1930s. There was extensive use of fur trims on all kinds of clothes. Leather also started to get popular by the end of the decade.
The influence of actresses in the entertainment industry can be seen increasing during this period. You can have a look at the dresses of actresses like Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, Gretta Garbo, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Vivien Leigh to know the fashion styles prevalent in this decade.
Headwear included knit berets, pillbox hats, and brimmed hats. Permed hair was hidden under cute hats. Slip-on style flat shoes, lace-up shoes, pumps, buckle shoes were all worn throughout the decade.
You can find a lot of examples of 1930s clothes in this pinterest board
Read books on the subject of 1930s fashion for very authentic information and wonderful pictures –
Fashions of a Decade: The 1930s by Maria Costantino
Everyday Fashions of the Thirties (As Pictured in Sears Catalogs) by Stella Blum.
Fashions of the Thirties by Carol Belanger Grafton.
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