The 1930s were considered the ‘stylish thirties’ for a reason: day wear included genteel, ladylike dresses and evening was comprised of more glamorous fabrics like metallic lamés, sequins and glass beading. In great contrast to the 1920s fashion, waistlines were back and so was a more rounded bustline. Hats became smaller and off the forehead, again in direct contrast to the popular cloche hat of the previous decade.
Madeleine Vionnet was a French designer who popularized the halter neck and the cowl neck, both necklines that continue to be seen today. She also is famed for popularizing the bias method of cutting material, allowing the material to stretch and drape the figure in a more sensual way, enhancing the female form. Cotton would become a more popular fabric in this decade, rayon fabrics improved and wool crepes provided beautiful draping in suits. Nylon had been invented in 1927 but it would be produced by DuPont in 1938, forever changing women’s hosiery. Where Vionnet was known for ultra feminine, pastel dresses, Italian Elsa Schiaparelli was famous for her fitted suits and jackets. A fashion risk taker, she designed wide shouldered masculine influenced suits as popularized by Marlene Dietrich, using shoulder pads to heighten the effect. She also was among the first to promote the use of zippers. Schiaparelli’s fitted suits were to become more dominant in 1939 with the outbreak of WWII, as they were deemed more appropriate for austere wartime fashion in comparison to delicate dresses.
Madeleine Vionnet designs:
Elsa Schiaparelli designs:
Some of the actresses that I’ve included here had careers that spanned decades but they were considered particularly popular in the 30s.
in Cleopatra (1934)
Jean Harlow 1930s platinum blonde bombshell
Pixiwoo make-up tutorial Marlene Dietrich inspired:
Katherine Hepburn famously wore pants when other women would not and made menswear look impeccable and stylish.
In “Mildred Pierce” for which she won an Academy Award
With Fred Astaire
Wallis Simpson, here with Edward, formerly the VIII King of England, when they married in June 1937. He, of course, famously abdicated the throne so that he could marry her, a divorced American. They would be the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She was always considered incredibly stylish and their love story is famous. Also of note, she had quite an impressive jewelry collection.
Vivien Leigh or Miss Scarlett O’Hara herself…
- On the Runway Blog: Prada and Schiaparelli at the Met (runway.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Fabcon: Elsa Schiaparelli (fabsugar.com)