Fashion Flashback Friday: The 1930s

So it’s the Great Depression and all, but that doesn’t mean we have to dress like it. Fashion in the ’30s is surprisingly glamorous. Gone is the boxy, boylike flapper figure of the ’20s and in comes a more feminine silhouette that emphasizes a small waist. Shoulder pads and fluttery sleeves help make the waist look smaller, and hems fall to calf length and lower.

Because more women are working and taking care of bidness outside the home, they suddenly need a whole new category of wardrobe. Introducing the “day” dress, which falls between a house dress – worn, shockingly enough, only at home – and an evening dress, which is worn during those fancy nights sipping champagne at the Rainbow Room.

Day dresses
Day dresses for the 'stout' woman
Day Dresses for the ‘Stout’ Woman
More day dresses!

Evening gowns begin to feature silky, slinky or metal lamé fabrics and are embellished with sequins and beads for extra sparkle. Cutting fabric on the bias is new and exciting, and allows the material to drape more flatteringly and hug the curves.

Slinky Evening Dress
Slinky Evening Dress
’30s Evening Dresses on display at Metropolitan Museum of Art

The zipper is another new innovation that makes life easier, as is the beginning of mass-produced clothes, known as “ready-to-wear,” freeing women from having to sew their own clothes all the time. (Although many still do, it being the depression and all.)

Women’s pants begin to make an appearance, albeit mostly for beachwear and other casual occasions. Women’s trousers are wide-legged and high-waisted and sort of resemble a skirt in the way they drape and move.

Hats are still big, with 1920s-style cloches and berets still popular in the early part of the decade, later giving way to the more relaxed slouch and the flatter, wide-brimmed pancake-type hats.

Greta Garbo rocks the slouch hat
Greta Garbo rocks the slouch hat
Pancake hat
Pancake hat

The ’30s were known as the golden-age of Hollywood, so we would be remiss in not including some of the fashionable ladies of the time, like Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard (aka Mrs. Clark Gable) and Ginger Rogers.

Jean Harlow
Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard
Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers
Also some random (but very chic) actresses

For men, shoulder pads and wide-legged pants are also a thing. The “ideal” male silhouette is broad-shouldered and athletic, so suits were cut to accentuate the shoulders, slim waist and broad legs. Jackets were cut a little longer to give the appearance of height and tapered at the waist to form a V-shape, again to give the appearance of heft and power.

Silver foxes in suits

So there you have it – a quick overview of the fashion of the ’30s. For more information (and photos!) check out the sites below. (by the way, LFF is on pinterest too! Follow us!)

As always, thanks for reading! If you have any comments, hit us up. And if you like this, why not share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc., etc.

Don’t forget to join us on April 22 for Decadent: 100 Years of Burlesque. Ticket info coming soon! See you next week.


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