1930s Fashion Styles
In the 1930s fashion had become a less hectic affair than it was in the roaring twenties. The wild partying and hedonism of the earlier years had given way to economic depression years before the Wall Street Crash, and life was becoming a lot more serious. But that did not mean that interest in fashionable clothing disappeared completely in the 1930s. Fashion was something that had great significance for the young generation – it represented their values and ideals. In fact, it was one of the most important elements in their sense of themselves.
World War II brought a drastic change in the fashion industry, with a focus on home front glamor. This new emphasis sparked a series of fashion trends, which took inspiration from the Hollywood movies of the period. It was the period of ‘covert glamour’, which lent a novel air to the business of clothing. The focus was on evening wear, which was usually more glamorous and revealing than formal evening wear. It tended to be very informal and quite elegant. The designers, who had earlier focused mainly on evening wear, adopted a more liberal approach to designing casual clothing and experimented with new materials and colours.
The most notable designers during this period of wild fashion were Dior, Balmain, Fath and Chanel. Though not famous yet, dresses worn by the movie stars of the time like Mae West and Ginger Aldrich had a profound effect on the minds of the fashion designers. Initially, the designs they made were similar to those they had made for the movie stars. But as time went by, they started to get ideas from the Hollywood stars about what type of clothes they wanted to wear. This gave birth to a whole new style of clothing that was unique only to its designers.
The 1930s fashion for costumes was marked by the zingy, playful and bold designs. These outfits were inspired by the designs worn by the movie stars of the period. Brightly coloured fabrics, vividly patterned dresses and matching accessories made these outfits extremely popular. They had a fresh and vibrant look that was inimitable and very appealing.
Though not too trendy, the 1930’s fashion for costumes included the signature cocktail dress, which had dropped out of fashion during the Great Depression because of the lack of buyers. It made a comeback during the World War II because of its ability to be worn by both men and women. The cocktail dress was made versatile by designers who chose to incorporate different fabrics, colours and patterns into it. One such example was the Chanel London suite, designed by the world famous couturier, John Douglas. Made from silk and embellished with rhinestones, it was something that women of the 1930s would definitely want to wear.
Trousers in shiny or dull colours were also a favourite item of clothing in the 1930s fashion for costumes, which were embellished with rhinestone studs, sequins, beads and laces. The most popular type of trousers at that time were dark coloured, with pleats and straight cut. This is what was known as the ‘blue trouser’, ‘brown trouser’ and the ‘black trouser’ respectively. However, it was only in the sixties that such clothes came to be regarded as appropriate for evening parties.
The classic Hollywood style for evening dresses during the 1930s was characterized by fitted or cuffed evening dresses, with either full or short sleeves. It was always assumed that long sleeves were a sign of immorality, while short sleeves were preferred for conservative or classy looks. These long, slim dresses had to be accessorised with elaborate patterns, which were mainly floral in nature. Florals often symbolized the era in which they belonged – summer or winter. Floral patterns were commonly seen on evening dresses worn in the warmer months, such as spring and summer, while autumn and winter featured darker colours, such as black and brown.
Fashion during the 40s focused on longer, fitted sleeves. They were often topped with a patterned or printed collar, in white or cream colour. As the decade wore on, so did the popularity of long-sleeved dresses. Initially, these were reserved for formal affairs, but gradually they became more popular and were included in everyday fashion. They were often adorned with feathered trim or with pleated motifs, all of which were reminiscent of the Hollywood fashion designs.