1930s Fashion For Women: Glamour In The Great Depression
The civilised world went into years of deprivation when the Wall Street stock market crashed and created what History considered as “the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialised world”. Fashion quickly adapted to this economic turmoil with the emergence of the ready-to-wear market. The average person could not afford to have all their clothes tailored, so stylish wardrobe pieces at a more affordable price point flourished.
In contrast to the economic struggles, the golden era of cinema started in the 30s, seducing the world with its curious look into the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. The sartorial influence from the silver screen showcased a fantasy the average household could no longer afford.
As the 1920s flapper look started to become passé, the highly coveted Hollywood glamour became all the rage! Greta Garbo rocked the side-parted hair. Joan Crawford donned the puffed sleeves. Marlene Dietrich wore menswear with absolute perfection – and women all over the world followed.
1930s Ladies’ Fashion: The 10 Best Styles Of The Era
10. Criminally Chic
Infamous gangsters Bonnie and Clyde not only caught the attention of the world through their serial bank robberies and gang activities, but they also rocked the fashion world with their style. Bonnie Parker inspired many with her fashion choices, including her wool beret, silk scarf, knit sweater, and a tweed skirt ensemble (gun not included).
These pieces can be worn individually to spruce up any look but even worn as a whole outfit, this would definitely hold up today. Talk about being notoriously chic!
9. Set Sail Into Style
Spice up your summer look with nautical themes! The popular wide-leg trousers were obviously associated with sailors, especially with the strong colour palette of blues, reds, and white. The wide-leg trouser paired perfectly with the middy, sailor blouse. Check out this chic nautical outfit worn by American film actress Marian Marsh in 1932!
8. Housewife Chic
Who said being comfortable and stylish is impossible? Definitely not these housewives from the 1930s. Women back then still wanted to stay stylish even during the times they spend inside the household. A short-sleeved, mid-calf length frock with an accentuated waist was considered the most basic and common cut of the house dress. Sounds a bit boring, no? Luckily, housewives had the option to play around and jazz the basic form with various prints and different necklines to choose from.
7. Yes Sir to Faux Fur
Nothing quite says vintage opulence like a luxurious fur coat. If having a full coat of fur is too much, you could tone it down and opt for outerwear with fur trimming instead. Nowadays, opt for faux fur or source vintage coats for a much more eco-friendly approach.
6. Art Deco Jewellery
The economical changes also affected the jewellery industry. Jewellery pieces continued to be made with extravagant designs but with cheaper materials, creating what we now know as costume jewellery. According to Vintage Dancer, these accessories “were made cheaply with faux materials such as painted glass instead of real pearls or bakelite, a form of plastic, instead of gemstones”. This way, even the average woman could still exude extravagance with an illusion of grandeur!
5. Cinched To Perfection
One of the most obvious fashion differences between the 30s and the 20s was the dress silhouette and the newly welcomed emphasis on women’s waistlines. Dresses accentuating the woman’s natural curves started to become all the rage in the thirties. Slim waists, sometimes accessorised with a belt, took over the drop waist look popularly found in flapper-style dresses of the 1920s. Here’s to celebrating the female form!
4. Make Waves in Jumpsuits
In the 1930s, the jumpsuits and wide-legged pants hit the mainstream after fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced it to the market. Even while just spending a day at the beach, women back then definitely knew how to dress with style no matter what the occasion!
3. The Old Hollywood Glamour
Channel your inner silver screen siren and capture the look of the old Hollywood glam. Whether it be a cocktail dress, party dress, ball gown, or even a wedding dress, look to the 30s for some inspiration! Iconic evening dresses were magnificently sleek and used fabrics like velvet, satin, and silk. Don’t forget some shoes and Art Deco-inspired costume jewellery to complete the full look ala Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard.
2. Power Puff Sleeve
Way before Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, there was already Joan Crawford’s Letty Lynton. Designer Gilbert Adrian designed the puffed sleeve to give the illusion of smaller hips, resulting in one of the most iconic dresses in early Hollywood fashion. According to Marie Claire, the gown caught the eye of so many women that budget replicas were sprouting all across America. Big time department store Macy’s even sold 15,000 imitation dresses!
1. It’s A Man’s World
On-screen celebrities Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn challenged gender norms by donning menswear. These two iconic women brought menswear-inspired fashion to the forefront in the 1930s and paved the way in making men’s fashion pieces acceptable (and sexy!) for women.
In fact, Dietrich was probably the first woman seen wearing a tuxedo in a public setting, and Hepburn famously loved her trousers and button-down shirts both on and off-screen. Who said ties and suits are just for leading men?