Skip to main content
Create interactive lessons using any digital content including wikis with our free sister product
. Get it on the
Pages and Files
A Sample Page for Students
Activists W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington
Communication and Media in the 1930s
Consumer Products in the 1930s
Entertainment in the 1930s
Fashion in the 1930s
Film-Radio-Dance-TV in the 1930s
Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman
Golden Gate Bridge
Add "All Pages"
Fashion in the 1930s
Wiki By: Kendall White,
and Jordan Stewart
From Fantastic Furs to Fabulous Trends...This is the Thirties!
As a result of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, many apparent changes in Fashion occurred throughout the decade. "Thrift was the spirit of the day. Reckless spending was a thing of the past" (Thomas paragraph 4). Instead of purchasing new clothes, many women would sew their clothes instead. Clothing was mended and patched before being replaced. In addition to the direct impact fashion had on many individuals, it also heavily influenced the entertainment industry, consumerism, and technology of the 1930s.
Fashion in the 1930s began with hardships and concluded in hostility (Elgin 6). Consequently, the economic vision of prosperity in America came to a staggering halt. It was not until the end of the decade when “economic pressures eased a little and political pressures increased, the whole fashion trend became escapist, either into fantasy or romantic nostalgia” (Nunn 192). On the contrary, fashion adjusted to a more real-world market. During the Thirties, “manufacturers produced more ready-to-wear clothing,” which was more cost effective and contemporary (Behke 5). This new wave of industrialized production jump started a movement that has carried itself to modern culture.
Even though creativity is essential for any successful designer, the economic circumstances of the 1930s made it exceptionally hard to assemble lively looks. There were fashion designers that were able to manage acceptable styles. For example, “Two fashion designers that found the perfect blend of innovation in 1930s fashion but doing so within boundaries were Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli” (Thomas paragraph 5). These designers presented well known styles such as blazers and trousers which came in popular colors of black, navy, and grey (Niven paragraph 2). Vionnet and Schiaparelli also were known for creating clothes that symbolized the independence, femininity, and beauty of women.
Another impact of these tough economic circumstances was that fashion returned to a simpler look. Women did not wear extravagant clothes or colors. They did this for many reasons but the most important was financial ability. The Great Depression put burdens on women and families nationwide to the point were sometimes fashion was not a priority. That is why designers like Coco Chanel that incorporated cheaper fabrics like cotton into her high fashion designs, really gave women the confidence they needed to take steps into the fashionable world. Also, during the Great Depression, "clothes were sweet and tidy by day" because a style like that was cheap and practical ("1930's Fashion History-Stylish Thirties" paragraph one). An example of what a middle class woman might wear might be: a dress that was about knee length with shoulder pads and her hair would more likely than not be "waved and chin or shoulder length" (Niven 9).
Now that women had made their mark in the workforce during WWI and became much more mobile in the world outside of the house, womens styles were much more comfortable and easy going. Instead of having uncomfortable corsets or boning that could be sometimes dangerous and fatal they wore long dresses or skirts along with a nice blouse or a pair of trousers. "Womens skirts often had their hemlines cut off at mid-calf for daytime wear. For nighttime wear skirts had ankle or floor length hem lines" (Peacock 7). People were trying their hardest to relive their glory days during the 20's and being able to feel confident in an outfit that still left their wallets full made many people ecstatic.
For more general information on fashion, take a look at:
Fashion in the 1930s
Popular trends of the 1930s:
In contrast to the 1920s, the 1930's fashion trends consisted of sleek and sophisticated looks that reflected various Hollywood movies of the decade. "More muted colors were popular, as were deep colors. Fabrics with prints in abstract or geometric patterns were also widely used"( 1930s Fashion for Women paragraph 6). Along with necklines, skirts, and sleeves, suits were modified in order to benefit the majority of people in the 1930s.
Another popular trend of the 30s was that day dresses became simpler yet more fitting than ever before. Natural hemlines and waistlines were used to show off a woman's body. These dress traits really made the 30s unique in comparison to fashion of the 20s. Also, as the day dresses became simpler and more elegant, the evening wear for women became sexier and sleeker. Long gowns became very popular especially ones with plunging necklines or a deep back
During the thirties, people wanted to hold on to the lush and vibrant thrill of the twenties. Everyone in the country “who could afford it-even those who couldn’t-wanted to look good in the 1930s”(Lindop 80). By finding ways to make innovative alterations, people did not have to purchase new garments. Although the Thirties were a time of financial hardship, fashion provided a form of escape from everyday reality.
While many women still continued to stay at home and take care of the household, others joined the workforce in the spirit of patriotism. But times were not always easy for fashion designers such as Coco Chanel
because “During World War I she waged a fight of her own against the cumbersome fashion of the turn of the century. Always attuned with her time, she readily understood that women could not live through these terrible war years wearing over decorated garments” (Merriman, 3). Some of her most popular styles were adaptations of men's clothes such as sportswear, sailor's outfits, trousers and ties, and wool jerseys such as the one she made her very famous Chanel Sweater out of. Those styles were so popular that they ran into the 1920's and even the early and mid 1930's. But what's a great outfit without jewelry to finish off the look? The trendiest look was costume jewelry, especially long pearl necklaces or short chunky necklaces that added a subtle pop of color.
The 1930s established many trends for men that continue today. "The inverted triangle became widely popular, v-shaped appearance, narrow slightly in the hips, and in general more fitted attire" (Niven 9). Also, in style was shoulder pads,” Suit Jackets had chunky shoulder pads for extra emphasis” (Sutton 6). Along with these types of clothing for men they started to be provided in patterns such as plaid or stripes. Both men and women began to use hats more commonly as an accessory along with two rows of buttons on blazers which were considered cheap yet fashionable.
To get a more visual
of trends, check out:
"Women's skirts often had their hemlines at mid-calf for daytime wear. A skirt would softly widen from the hip, while a full skirt would accentuate a slim waist without emphasizing the hips. A long skirt would occasionally be trimmed with ruffles, flare with flounces, but would most likely be simple with a long, slender shape" (1930s Fashion for Women paragraph 7).
"For women in business, a well-tailored suit was a must. Women's suits were designed with tightly fitted coats, emphasizing a thin waist line, yet the suit as a whole had a more masculine look" (1930s Fashion for Women paragraph 9).
"The most common styles for necklines were crossover and v-necks with ruffles, scallop-edges, or lace accents" (1930s Fashion for Women paragraph 8).
"Sleeves would on occasion be puffed, but could also sometimes be seen with ruffles or flounces" (1930s Fashion for Women paragraph 8).
For more information on how fashion drew inspirations from media and entertainment, check out:
Entertainment in the 1930s
Health and Social Education:
Considering fashion as both an extraverted and motivational vehicle of health, it allows someone to fully understand why fashion affects all types of people. In the thirties, women returned to a more “Feminine figure” (Nunn 184). In modern times, fashion is considered to be superficial and very dramatic, but fashion in the thirties allowed much more simplicity.
With a new image of the modern women floating through the media, “physical activity and sun worshiping assumed cult proportions”(Elgin 52). Because of the negative connotations presented by the media, fashion has taken form to be a very influential piece in health.
Fashion supported the war and helped to influence women to support,” Rosie the Riveter had jean overalls and red kerchief with white polka dots that was known across the nation and a symbol for women having strength and perseverance” (Niven 9). She was a wide known icon and was often a topic of discussion. Other sources influenced women as well. For example,” Vogue and other magazines
suggested ways to make every dollar count. Articles recommended tactics for covering old shoes with new fabric, reusing buttons, and trimming hats material left over from other projects”(Baker 10). Women would meet and discuss this information with one another and which methods were most cost effective. Fashion played a role in the propaganda used to persuade women, “Picture yourself in these smart Navy uniforms” (Niven 9).
The IB Trait most could identify with in this decade was open-minded.
The thirties provided an ambiance that orchestrated a major change in style and sophistication. A popular trend known as Art Deco was, “a style that drew on the art of different cultures for its motifs” (Elgin 36). The use of dark, solid colors along with contoured shapes, provided a wide range of inspiration for designers and artists alike
(Nunn 36). For this purpose, the media used fashion as an instrument to blend its starsinto society. During the Thirties, “a huge number of movie magazines kept fans abreast of the fashions of their heroines”(Elgin 16). Nightclubs and theaters were profoundly celebrated as well. During the nighttime, “silk and slick hair meshed well with the chrome curves of Art Deco style,” which led many men to a more cosmopolitan look (Lindop 81). The inspiration from many cultures caused individuals to be open-mind to upcoming trends and styles.
Another IB trait that accompanies the thirties very well is balanced. This may not seem like a trait you would associate with fashion but in the thirties women had to balance their time, finances, and energy between fashion, necessities and other wants. For example, women wanted to be fashionable, but the lack of money limited their ability to fulfill this desire. Also, many families were required to satisfy their children's wants and needs; thus leaving mothers who may have a desire to be fashionable without the means of doing so.
"Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well."
Designers of the 1930's
Throughout the 1930's many designers came and went just like the tides but one very influential figure that changed the way women looked at fashion was Coco Chanel. Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur France and because of being born into a very poor family, she was sent to grow up in a convent. Chanel was always very innovative as a child and always very interested in the latest fashions. Wanting to leave her mark she opened a small hat shop. Critics said “Her simplistic hats were evidence of her attempts to create a youthful look” (Plunkett, 2). She immediately sold many of her hats to some of her rich friends she met through a mutual friend by the name of Etienne Balsan. While knowing Balsan she also met the love of her life Arthur "Boy" Capel. With the help of Capel she was able to buy a small store in rue Cambon, one of the most fashionable districts in Paris. Coco Chanel also started making sweaters and dresses which quickly sold faster than some of her hats. Her designs were very risky for such an elegant country but the women of France seemed to love them. By not having to always worry about their skirts riding up or getting a wrinkle or two, women were able to be more efficient in their everyday lives. One of Chanel's most competitive rivals was a neighbor of hers in rue Cambon by the name of Elsa Schiaparelli. Some of Schiaparelli's most famous designs were pour le Sport collection which shocked the tennis world after Lili de Alvarez wore one of her designs in Wimbledon in 1931. Another was a sweater that had the appearance that a scarf was wrapped around the wearers neck.
Designs by Chanel
Designs by Schiaparelli
Coco Chanel was not only a thinker by being able to reinvent fashion in the early 20th century, she was able to empower women to go out and do the things they wanted to do, be the person they wanted to be, and change the community so that women were thought of as equals when it came to doing a mans job. In addition she was also a risk taker by creating bold designs based off of menswear. It was not only edgy but comfortable, which Chanel thought was important for the modern woman.
Behke, Alison Marie. Dressing a Nation The History of US. Fashion. Minneapolis:
Twenty First Century Books, 2012. Print.
"Beautiful 1930's Color Fashion Film." YouTube. YouTube, 01 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 May 2013.
Elgin, Kathy. Fashion of a Decade The 1930s. New York: Chelsea House Publishing,
"1930s Fashion for Women." N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2013. <
"1930s Futuristic Fashion Predictions." YouTube. YouTube, 11 Mar. 2009. Web. 19 May 2013.
Knight, Margret. Fashion Through the Ages, from Overcoats to Petticoats. New York:
The Penguin Group, 1998. Print.
Lindop, Edmund and Margret J. Goldstein. America in the 1930s. Minneapolis:
Twenty First Century Books, 2010. Print.
Niven, Felicia. Fabulous Fashions of The 1930s. Melrose Park, Illinois: Lake Book Manufacturing. 2012. Print.
Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume 1200-1980. Lanham, Maryland: New Amsterdam
Publishing Books, 1999. Print.
Peacock, John. The 1930s. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Print.
Merriman, John C. Business Builders in Fashion. Minneapolis: Oliver, 2003. Print.
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"