Fashion History what Women Wore in the 1930s
When thoughts of the 1930s come to mind, depressing thoughts usually come with them. Many believe the thirties was a period of no smiles, no income and no way of living. Though this was often true, there were people trying to make a difference, and there were people striving to put smiles on the faces of others and the fashion industry was looking to do just that. Many changes, inventions and improvements were made in the world of fashion. Numerous designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Madeline Vionnet and Dr. Walter Carothers made their mark despite the political, social and economic challenges. Although fashion reflected the mood of the era in many ways, it lightened the mood in many more.
For women who could afford them, the fashions of the early thirties were stylish and elegant. The longer, classier and more flowing lines that Paris based couriers had shown in their collections in the autumn of 1929 were to become established in 1930. But the increasingly difficult economic situation meant that women really couldn afford the luxury of owning new clothes. In an effort to keep up with the latest fashions, many women began to add lengthening bands of a contrasting fabric or even fur to the hems of their skirts. Material was even added to collars and sleeves to make it seem like their outfit had been designed that way. Women began to get creative in ways they never believed to be possible. Within a year the new lines for fashion had been created and as if they were affected by the economic downfall, hemlines dropped. Skirts became longer and narrower and gradually flared out as they reached the bottom of the calf. Hats now had skull caps with draped folds of fabric attached to the back or sides, and brims that hid one eye were in style as well. Sleeves were longer and covered the elbows and wrists where they were either loosely tied or cuffed. Along with the overall design of the new fashions reflecting the subdued mood, the colors and hues used reflected it as well. More and more clothes were made in shades of black, navy and grey for basic city wear, and browns and greens were often used in the fall. Afternoon or evening wear consisted of black or pastel colors of peach, pink, green and blue. (Fashions of a Decade)
As styles and colors were changing, the average woman tastes began to change too. Because the thirties was a decade where women began to have bigger roles in society, the way clothes were designed to fit was altered. The modern woman was no longer a simple, stay at home mom. Women now had more of a purpose; as a result, they had more places to go and more reasons to go out. The woman of the thirties was also a different shape. The flat chested, boyish look of the twenties was gone! The shape of breasts reappeared, waists were back in their normal place and shoulders gradually began to broaden. Curves finally returned from skirts made to drape the hips and dresses made to follow the body natural outline. (Fashions of a Decade) But the boldest innovations of the thirties would definitely have to be the backless and halter neck evening gowns. Thanks to their original designer, Miss Madeline Vionnet, these dresses were among the most elegant designs and the biggest designers. The world had never seen anything like this!
difficult times, fashion is always outrageous. These were the words spoken by the world renowned Elsa Schiaparelli. The Italian Elsa Schiaparelli had a love of rich fabrics and feminine fantasy clothes that frequently had a surreal twist. Those that loathed the swathes of pastel chiffon produced by Vionnet were easily compensated by short fitted suits or jackets black dresses. She used bold colors and crazy designs! Her eccentricity was much loved and her clothes were revolutionary! It was her late 1930s tailored suit designs which were thought the most suitable clothing to embrace in the war years rather than the dresses that were shown just before the war started. ( Everything Schiaparelli created made a statement. From her lobster themed evening dress to her skeleton dress and shoe hat, Schiaparelli had bold taste and strong opinions and was not afraid to let the world know that.
Elsa was not the only woman who decided to shake things up a bit. Madeline Vionnet made a lot of changes as well. The French designer Madeleine Vionnet opened her own fashion house in 1912. She made the popular halter neck and the cowl neck. She invented methods of bias cross cutting during the late 1920s using a miniature model. The bias method has often been used to add an elegant quality to clothes. To make a piece of fabric hang and drape in folds and stretch over the shape of the body, fabric pattern pieces can be cut not on the straight grain, but at an angle of 45 degrees. ( era This new way of cutting affected the way designers viewed fashion nationally! The days of cutting one way and having fabrics cover the body in limited ways were gone.
When ways of cutting change, of course fabrics need to change as well. The new and improved fabrics of the decade were rayon, cotton, silk and wool. Cotton was often used by Chanel and suddenly it was considered more than a cheap fabric for work clothes. But nothing cut or look as good as pure silk and it was still the best fabric to capture the folds and drapes of thirties couture. Wool crepes also molded to the body and fell into multiple pleats.
While the wealthier woman might own a number of outfits appropriate for numerous occasions, to a vast number of women, the world of fashion clothing was unattainable. Many women simply had to make their clothes last longer and wherever possible they altered their clothes by adding trimmings and fabrics to their clothes. The large department stores catered to the modern woman needs. Not only would she find basic household items and clothing under one roof; here the average woman of style could also buy those important little items that completed her outfit.
Costume jewelry was among the most fashionable accessories. Semi precious or even fake stones had been popular since the twenties, and by the thirties the collection of costume jewelry in department stores was very extensive. Rhinestones, diamante and clip on earrings were popular. The latest designs were either heart shaped or stud earrings, while dress clips were often larger versions of the same shape. These clips were worn fastened to scarves or collars, or some women would wear them as a pair on the neckline of a dress. (Fashions of a Decade)
Despite the falling economies, many women saw it as their duty to be fashionable. As people tried to compensate for the dreariness and grayness of everyday life in the depression, they turned their free time into something special by way of their clothes. Fashion in the thirties was a way of escape. We all know it was a depressing decade, probably one of the most emotional times our country has seen. But by doing a little extra in the morning to make themselves look good or finding a creative way to mimic the latest fashions, women found a way to put a smile on their face, if only for a moment.