My 1930s Fashion Obsession

1930s fashion

I find the 1930s one of the most fascinating decades in history. Caught between the frivolities of the Roaring Twenties and the devastation of the World War II, it was a time of immense change. In 1929, the Wall Street crash sent out a ripple effect on the economies of the western world and plunged many countries into what was known as The Great Depression. Politics came into the forefront of people’s minds as they turned to their governments for answers. In Germany this lead to the rise of the Third Reich which, in turn, allowed Hitler to take control of his nation so he could, in his eyes, fix the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic.

Yet, it was also a time of great innovation and incredible design revolutions. Frozen foods were first made available in 1930, the first all-colour movies were shown at the cinema and the jet engine was invented, along with FM radio, the photocopier and the ballpoint pen. The style we all know and love as Art Deco was at its height of popularity and Modernism, with its streamlines and unfussy detailing, became a part of everyday objects. Artists from the Bauhaus school of art helped to shape the Moderne look with architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, artist Wassily Kandinsky and designer Herbert Bayer, who invented the world renowned Bauhaus font.

During the 1930s fashions became more subdued from the overly decorated styles of the 1920s. Luxury fabrics and expensive beading were scarce and evening and everyday fashions became much simpler. The androgynous look of cropped hair, straight loose fitting dresses and boyish silhouette that was made popular during the previous decade gradually became more feminine as women grew their hair. The waist made a come back and the hemlines returned to a more demure length. Styles followed the Moderism feel of smooth, slim lines, simplicity and innovation. Many fabrics were cleverly cut on the bias with rayon, linen, crepe and cotton being used for every day wear. Silk and satin were reserved for intimates and evening wear, along with lace. Detailing was innovative, using colour and small sections of fabric to create eye-catching pleating, necklines and anything that would help to accentuate the waist.

No other decade in the 20th Century has produced clothing quite like the 1930s which was full of creativity and exquisitely elegant style, yet also strangely leant itself perfectly to leisurewear and more casual attire. Just recently, as I’ve been exploring separates a lot more, I have become quite obsessed with the skirt styles of the 1930s which can be dressed with a delicate blouse and cinched in jacket for a chic and very refined look or a jumper or simple crepe blouse for a more day-to-day look. It’s a shape I have never worn before but I particularly love the flutter or trumpet skirt where the waist is fitted, the fabric skims over the hip, follows a straight line down the thighs and then flares out towards the bottom. Its both glamorous and feminine but can be made in so many different fabrics to create subtly different silhouettes. And here’s my inspiration…

Myrna Loy

The beautiful Myrna Loy wearing a light-weight ankle length dress with one simple kick-pleat in the centre from the knee down.

Bette Davis

Bette Davis in a full length knitted dress with four inverted pleats starting at the knee (Love that fur!).

Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert in a mid-calf length skirt, worn with a belted jacket, which looks like it has a pleated section to the right hand side.

Jean Harlow

Great candid shot of Jean Harlow (with Johnny and Ruth Hamp) wearing a more casual style flutter skirt, which falls just below the knee, and is teamed with a low cut blouse and short sleeve cardigan.

Bonnie Parker

Outlaw Bonnie Parker in a heavy-weight exaggerated trumpet skirt, chevron jumper and, of course, her trademark beret.

Early 1930s Dress

Found on Pinterest, this stunning light-weight day dress is the epitome of 1930s fashion, with different sections cut in various directions, unusual detailing on the neckline and a kick-pleated skirt.

Early 1930s Dresses

Two knitted 1930s dresses styled as sportswear (golfing was huge amongst the young female set in the 30s).

1930s Knit Dress

A copper orange knitted dress with button detailing down the front torso and split sleeves. and an imitation pleating stitch down the skirt (there’s probably a technical term for that).

Nautical 1930s Fashion

My favourite, nautical fashion! Six dresses in red, white and blue with amazing detailing.

Nicole Kidman Australia

Nicole Kidman, in the 1930s based film Australia, with a front side-pleated skirt looking incredibly chic.

Bonnie and Clyde TV series

The fabulous Bonnie and Clyde mini series with Bonnie in a medium-weight trumpet skirt and blouse (if you haven’t seen this series I’d highly recommend it for the beautifully accurate clothing alone. It’s a pretty good version too!).

1930s fashion

And this is the outfit I have been obsessing about! The beautiful gored flutter skirt is from 20th Century Foxy (or House of Foxy as they’ve renamed themselves as). It is made in a middle-weight tweed which is a grey/brown colour and, according to the description, falls at mid to low calf. I have their 1950s full circle skirt which falls to mid-calf on me and this is advertised at 4 inches longer so I am a little worried about the length, but it won’t put me off ordering it. (I’m just waiting to be paid at the end of the month!)

Everything else in the picture I already own, so I’m almost there. The sailor blouse is also from 20th Century Foxy and is made in a beautifully comfortable white crepe. I wear it with a lot of different bottoms and it always has a really authentic look about it.

The shoes are from B.A.I.T but I bought them from Deadly is the Female. As with all shoes, I really needed a size 4.5 in these but they don’t do half sizes. I decided on the 4 in the end but, after having them for over a year, I still haven’t worn them. Then I saw this post by Miss Victory Violet. I followed her advice and stretched them using thick socks, and it’s worked!

The handbag is winging its way to me from the States as I write this. I bought it on Etsy for a bargain price of £10 plus postage. It’s from the 1970s, so not exactly authentic, but it is similar to the style they would’ve had back in the 30s, perhaps slightly larger but then they didn’t have to carry iPhones.

I cannot wait to put this outfit together in real life. It’s elegant but has a sportswear influence that was so often seen in everyday wear during this time. This makes it look slightly more casual than my fitted 1950s wiggle skirts which brilliantly fits in with my attempt at finding more casual looks. Roll on pay day!

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

2 Comments

  1. I have been looking at those *exact* same foxy separates. While it’s true that the waist came back in the 30s, the silhouette wasn’t an exaggerated hourglass like the 50s one and so it’s one I can pull off. That handbag is a smasher. You have to post shots of the whole outfit all together!

    Thanks also for the half-size shoe stretching link; I have the same problem.

    • Hehehe, we clearly both have very good taste! I will definitely do a post once I’ve got everything. I just really hope the skirt isn’t too long because taking it up will get rid of that beautiful flutter effect.

      That shoe stretching thing really works. I did it with my Swedish Hasbeens over the weekend so I will actually be able to wear them this summer. Yeah!

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