The fashion of the thirties was usually overshadowed by the great depression, but the 1930s were full of glamour and style.

The very loose, square, drop-waist, high knee-length hem, and slightly “boyish” look of 1920’s fashion for women was completely gone by 1933 and was replaced with a much more modest and form fitted style with an accentuated natural “high waist”, fitted hips, longer mid-calf or floor length hemline, high neckline, and wide shoulders.

Real Women in the 1930's

1930s House Dresses :

The most casual a woman dressed was at home, with just her family and visiting lady neighbors. House dresses, while basic and usually made of practical durable cotton, followed the trends in cut and silhouette, and often displayed a variety of bright bold prints. Most women still preferred to sew their own clothing or upcycle existing dresses into newer frocks. The house dress was the ideal dress to experiment with since no one but family saw her in it.

One unique house dress variation was the reversible house wrap dress, called a “hooverette.” Practical, affordable, washable, cotton percale and true to thirties style, they sported ruffle sleeves, accentuated tied waste, and a slim cut through the hips, the “hooverette” was the perfect daily dress. With two sides, it was two dresses in one! Now that is a smart woman.

A woman sewing at home

1930s Afternoon Dresses :

A woman would not wear her house dress out of the house. To shop, run errands, attend a tea, or see a matinee, she would need a smart afternoon or day dress. Often referred to as “city,” “metropolitan,” or “town tailored”, these dresses were usually silk or rayon crepe, not cotton. They stuck with the standard silhouette and classic ’30s features: puff sleeves, belted waists and large yokes and collars.

These dresses had more embellishment and detail than a house dress: embroidery, covered decorative buttons, shirring and ruching, bows, trapunto, and faux flower trimming were part of the array of details added to make a dress smarter for forays outside the house. They tended to be solid colors or more subdued prints.

1937 Afternoon Dresses

1930s Evening Gowns:

Silky, clinging fabrics were common in evening gowns,often worn with a fur. Fabrics that were popular included chiffon, silk, crepe-de-chines, and satin, cut on the bias to create elegant, clingy, flowing lines. Metallic lame came into fashion as well. Evening dresses had hems that very nearly touched the floor and often had small trains in the back.

Evening dresses were also very fitted in the waist, slim and fitted through the hips, easing out mid-thigh or just above the knees, where they flared elegantly to the floor. There were gowns with puffs and ruffle sleeves, and later in the decade high necks and halter styles with plunging backs were in fashion. The backless gown is a signature of 1930s evening wear.

Nearly all modern formal gowns have their stylish roots back to the 1930s. Old Hollywood stars of the Golden Years remain icons for glamour on the runway. This year many current Hollywood stars chose to wear 1930s inspired gowns on the red carpet. It is a style that is a classic favorite in any decade.

1930s Women’s Pants :

1938 Sport Pants

While rebellious women began wearing , in the 1930s there were several social situations that were acceptable to wear pants in public. Beach pajamas– one-piece jumpers with very wide leg pants, belted or fitted high waists and slightly more blousey than most 1930s fashion tops– became popular for a day at the beach or a “restful day at home.” Sportswear for tennis, hiking, picnics, skiing, or even just watching sports pants in earlier decades and even shorts! The sailor inspired two piece “sailor middy” was a common sportswear outfit.

Pants generally were wide legged trousers with a front crease or very wide flowing culottes that looked like a skirt when not moving, with a high fitted waist. The double button “sailor” front was common, as was a side zipper or button closure. They were usually made of a durable cotton fabric like twill or wool for winter. Winter snow pants were wide but fitted at the ankle to prevent snow going into one’s boots.

Swimsuits and Beach Clothes :

In addition to beach pajamas, women’s swimwear consisted of fitted wool one pieces with cotton jersey lining, a mini skit over boy shorts, and frequently little belts accentuating the waist. Usually they had simple tank straps and often low or even plunging backs. Sunbathing became a trend in the 1920s and continued in the ’30s as Coco Chanel and Hollywood stars encouraged the tan look. A tan began to mean one had time for leisure, not that one had to work in the sun.

Hollywood stars quickly adopted large sun hats and sunglasses into their beach side wardrobe. Open toe sandals, too, were becoming more common for beach side strolls. Even if a woman lived hundreds of miles from the ocean, she still dressed liked she was on vacation in Florida.

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