The decade of the 1930s came in with the unfortunate Wall Street Crash in 1929 which led to the Great Depression across America. This affected the lives of the people severely. The 1930s were indeed a tremulous era. Because of the financial crisis, there wasn’t any chance to show off. Women were required to look smart and shop judiciously. She could only buy the casual fashion styles of the 1930s, which she could only afford. At the same time, working women and single women during the 1930s were also expected to dress smartly with the little amount of money they had. In all aspects, women had to spend as low as possible and meet their requirements. Such was the life of a 1930s woman. However, one astonishing fact regarding the fashion trends of this age is despite the financial crisis, manufacture and sale of cosmetics and makeup doubled in this age.
This article tells the various clothing types that were popularly worn by women during the 1930s. Let’s have a quick look below.
Popular Women’s Clothing during the 1930s
Typically, women’s fashion in the first half of the 1930s was drop waist, loose, high knee length with a tinge of the boyish look of the previous decade. This look was completely gone after a few years and by 1933 women wore modest, body fitting feminine dresses with an accentuated high waist, floor-length hemline, tight-fitting hips, longer mid-calf, broad shoulders and a high neckline and puffed sleeves. If you are to describe the 1930s fashion precisely, it would be with these words ” tailored, trim, modest and feminine”.
An ideal 1930s woman looked slender and tall, having a prominent waistline and narrow hips. However, because everyone wasn’t born with perfect slim hips, they emphasized more on broad-shouldered dresses which had puffed sleeves, large collars, shoulder pads, caplets, and ruffled cap sleeves. These features created an illusion that made the hips and waists appear narrow and slim. Following were the prominent clothing styles during the 1930s:
- Slender mid-length Skirts
- High waist, tightly fit dresses
- Broad Shoulders,
- Detailed neckline- pleats, collars, bows, and capes
- Floral prints, plaids, stripes on dresses
- Backless evening gowns
Now that you have got a rough idea about the 1930s look of women, we would look into each dressing style in detail.
- 1930s House Dresses
The most popularly worn dress all year round during the 1930s was the casual home dress. When women were with their family or relatives or visiting neighbours, they could be seen in their respective house dresses. The house’s dresses were made up of durable cotton, which had a silhouette and trendy cuts to make them look fashionable yet simple. Mostly they were found in a variety of bright shades. Women loved to sew and design their own clothing during these times and the house dress was the best item to experiment with because only her family members saw her in that dress. The house dress in those days can be considered to be a kind of uniform of the home. It resembled a housecoat in design. Women could be seen in their house dresses while doing household chores like cooking, washing, cleaning, etc. Modern-day house dresses have become pretty fashionable and can be worn outside as well. They have a loosely fitted design, which is both feminine and comfortable.
- 1930s Casual Summer Clothes
A new trend, never seen before, came up in this decade. It was about being active outdoors. Leisurewear was an increasingly popular style of clothing that seeped into the everyday fashion of people. People wore leisurely styled clothes throughout summers when they got a chance to show off their skin. Sailor stripes and nautical motifs found in shades of white and cream were a popular choice among women. These colours were most preferred because it showed off one’s tan to the best effect. Playsuits were another popular element of clothing for summer vacations during the 1930s. Also, they paired up their tops with loosely fitted pants. Broad legged pants were comfortable to wear and allowed air to pass through. Playsuits and other leisure clothing were paired with sunglasses and a large straw sun hat.
- 1930s Skirts and Blouses
With time, the demand for versatile clothing also increased. Women started to work which meant they needed more casual and comfortable outfits for daily wears at an affordable range. Hence, the demand for separates like blouses and skirts increased. They could be paired with anything and accentuated one’s look if paired with accessories. The silhouette was a distinct feature of 1930s clothing. The silhouette of the decade was a prominent waist, slim hips, and wide shoulders. The main focus of clothing was to accentuate the shoulder and neckline. Women wore caplets to coordinate with their outfits and round flounces of fabrics around their shoulders. If you are looking forward to creating this look, all you need is a calf-length skirt and a properly tailored blouse. Pair the two and add a scarf around your neck for better detailing. If you want to further enhance the look, pair the outfit with accessories like gloves, round big hat, high heeled sandals, and a handbag.
- 1930s Tea Dresses or Afternoon Dresses
Women could only wear house dress when inside her house. Whenever she had to go out to work, shop, run errands, attend a party or tea gathering or see a matinée show, she had to put on a smart afternoon dress. The afternoon dress was also called tea dresses, city, town tailored, or metropolitan dresses. They were usually made up of rayon crêpe or silk, but not cotton. They featured puffed sleeves, large yokes, belted waists, and high collars. They had decorative buttons or embroidery works, bows, trapunto, etc. These dresses were mostly found in solid colours or colourful prints. The afternoon dress largely resembled a frock. They had a better fit than the house dress and featured a more styled detailing. For defining their waistline, women paired them with belts. Like all other clothing styles, the focus of the afternoon dress was on the shoulder and neckline. Even skirts had an interesting and detailed works. They were often pleated which gave them a better look.
- 1930s Flour Sack Dresses
This particular clothing style was unique to the 1930s. This dress called hooverette was a type of the reversible house wrap dress.
Hooverettes were an affordable, practical, and easily washable variation of the house dress. They resembled a true 1930s style. They featured rough sleeves with a high tight waist and a narrow cut along the sides of hips. The hooverette was an ideal house dress during those times. It could be worn both as a house dress and a hooverette. So it’s two in one! Now that’s what smart women during the decade preferred.
- 1930s Beach Pajamas
As we have already mentioned, leisurewear became increasingly famous during this decade. In this context, beach pajamas became an important constituent of every women’s wardrobe. They were colourful and loosely fitted. They mostly featured wide legs, which gave more comfort to the wearer. Usually made up of cotton fabrics, they were either striped or plain. Sometimes they were printed in contrasting shades. If you want to recreate this 1930s look, you need broad legged trousers and a loose fit top. Pair the outfit with accessories like sunglasses and hats to enhance your look.
- 1930s Evening Gowns
Silk dresses having clinging fabrics and intricate designs were popular as evening dresses during the 1930s. Mostly worn with a jacket or fur wrap, they were found to have fabrics of chiffon, satin, silk or crepe de chine. They had an elegant flowing lines, defining a woman’s body extremely well. They had floor-length hemlines and a tight fit waist. Also, they had puffed or ruffled sleeves. As the decade progressed, gowns became high necked and halter styled with plunged backs. The best example of a 1930s evening dress is the classic backless gown. Most of the gowns we find today had their roots back to the 1930s. Gowns have always been a classic favourite of women since ages. Afterward, the evening dresses turned into popular wedding gowns.
- 1930s Women’s Pants
Earlier, women wearing pants weren’t acceptable to society. However, a few rebellious women dared to defy the societal laws and wore pants previously. But in the 1930s, we could see several situations where women wearing pants were accepted in public. Mostly, women were spotted wearing pants while they participated in sports and other outdoor activities like picnics, playing tennis, hiking, skiing, or doing water sports. Even wearing shorts was allowed! Pants were broad legged, which gave extreme comfort to the wearer. They looked like a skirt, having a high fitted waist. Usually, pants during those days were made up of cotton fabric for summers and wool for winters.
- 1930s Blouses and Sweaters
Women paired their high waist pants and shirts with versatile blouses and sweaters. Floral-printed cotton buttoned-down blouses were the most popular style prevalent in those times. Both summer and winter blouses were short in length and tightly fitted around the waist to allow for high waist skirts and pants. The sleeves were puffed. They had decorative detailed works like ruffles, pintucks, shirring, and contrasting buttons which gave them a feminine, girly, and playful look. The most basic blouse was a classic printed one, collared mostly in white.
Blouses were mostly light-colored because they could go well with skirts and trousers of any shade. Bishop sleeve, long sleeve, dolman sleeve, etc. were ideal for women who were in search of fancier blouses. On top of blouses, oversized ruffles, flounces, bows, etc. were added. Some of the blouses came with matching belts. The knit top looked the best when paired with broad legged pants and flared shorts. Knit tops were mostly available in the polo-shirt style with ties and high collars. Some had modest round necklines with a fitted waist.
Apart from blouses, sweaters and cardigans were worn. They were also slim fit which prominently accentuated women’s hips and waists. Sweaters were both short and long-sleeved. Either they were worn on their own or top of blouses and tops. Sleeves were fitted around the wrists and were high-necked. They had simple decorations on them like ribbon flowers, contrasting buttons, tassel ties, etc.
- 1930s Overcoats
During the 1930s, wearing casual jackets on top of blouses and high waist pants was an extremely popular style prevalent among women. Women’s winter coats were full shouldered, mid-calf, and high waisted and puffed sleeved. Also, they had wide lapels or oversized collars. They were fully made up of wool. Some even had detachable fur collars. Coats had buttons running all through the front and were paired with matching belts. Mostly they were available in colourful shades like blue, wine red, green and brown.
Raincoats resembled the shape and style of oversized fashionable coats of the previous decade. The cape coat and the trench coats were popular styles of winter coats. Raincoats were entirely made up of rubber. Transparent raincoats were mostly preferred by women because they didn’t cover their dress underneath.
Fabrics and colours
You might be wanting to know what fabrics were used to manufacture clothes during the 1930s. Cotton broadcloth for the daywear, rayon, or silk crepe for an afternoon or tea frocks, sheer rayons for tops and blouses were used. Sheer rayons were also used to manufacture summer leisure dresses. Linen was used for summer suits. Fur and wool were used for winter wear. Velvet, lace, satin, silk, and taffeta were the preferred fabric for evening gowns. 1930s dresses were brightly coloured. There wasn’t a single shade that was left out.
So that’s a detailed description of women’s wear during the 1930s. As we earlier mentioned that the thirties fashion was restricted because of the unfortunate great depression, but the decade was full of style and glamour. Women managed to look smart, even with affordable, simple yet classy dresses. Zippers became a staple during this time because they were less costly than buttons. Also, crepe, crinkled, nubby, or textures fabrics became a fashion.