Big Events

The defining event of the 1930s was the Great Depression. The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression created a need for less expensive garments without elaborate ornamentation. Designers of the period therefore relied on seam lines and darts as major forms of embellishment. Clothing that was cheaper and diversified was needed, thus creating the need for ready-to-wear fashion.

Big Ideas

The overwhelming popularity of the movies in the 1930s helped perpetuate the ideals of “Hollywood glamour.” Women began looking to screen stars for inspiration in fashion, hairstyles, makeup, and even demeanor. The movies, and the glamorous lifestyle they portrayed, were a way for the public to escape the harsh realities of the Depression. Designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli incorporated concepts of Surrealist Art into fashion designs, offering fantastical creations that also provided a flight from reality. The 1930s also saw the birth of American sportswear and two-piece bathing suits for women.

Big Trends

The decade saw a continuation of the linear shape of the 1920s, but with a leaner, longer, more feminine silhouette. The waistline returned to its natural position and hemlines dropped. Evening fabrics tended to be pale or white solids of silk or satin, and the backless evening gown was introduced at this time. French designer Madeleine Vionnet created the “Bias Cut”, which produced a “liquid” clinging effect on the body. Hats of all varieties were widely worn, and a right-angle tilt was a common way hats were styled. Shoes featured low heels and rounded toes. Costume jewelry and fur added the final touch of fashionable glamor.