The '30s drew inspiration from the rise of Hollywood where glamour oozed from the screen. Everything became less jagged and jazzy and more smooth and sultry. Clothes became more fluid creating sleek curves and celebrating the image of a woman's shape. Many of the experimental changes of the '20s were corrected; on a 1930's woman's outfit The waistline returned (as opposed to the drop waist of the '20s). Similarly, the skirt length became longer, in reverse to the '20s approach to fashion where shockingly short hemlines were popular.
The lovely Norma Shearer shows us how it's done in bias cut satin. The bias cut emphasises curves and satin shimmers to create an opulence... it also clings to every line, making it rather unforgiving on a fat day!
I love that the 1930s saw the woman's body as beautiful and feminine. The bust line was returned and was emphasised after years of being suppressed (due to the androgynous 20's style). Because of the renewed emphasis on healthy living, sports wear became popular, and this focus on exercise combined with the slender movie stars and Busby Berkeley beauties made it fashionable to be healthy and for a woman to show off her long lean form.
"Does my bum look big in this?" Busby Berkeley would be sure to say so... measuring each dancer to ensure the overall effect on screen was one of symmetry and perfection.
If your figure didn't quite cut Berkeley girl perfection, all was not lost... because slim was 'in' the corset returned in order to recreate that fashionable streamlined look. As a 1933 Harper's Bazaar article on the season's new line of corsets cautions...
"You cannot have a roll of flesh about the midriff. An uncontrolled derriere is vulgar in a slinky dress."
... I have recently acquired a '30s girdle and by golly it works, you just can't eat much whilst wearing it!
Two fashion designers synonymous with the era are Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli. Both women created memorable fashions that were in step with 1930s concepts. An iconic look of the era was Elsa Schiaparelli's knitted white bow jumper. The decade also saw designers create fashions that were helpful to women in the workplace such as a woman's suit that even had pockets that looked like drawers!
Top left and main image: The Schiaparelli Lobster dress, created in collaboration with Salvador Dali in 1937, infamously worn by Wallis Simpson and photographed by Cecil Beaton. Bottom left inset Schiaparelli's iconic famous sweater.
This was the decade that created trends and consumerism. With the rise of off the peg fashions and mass produced cosmetics , cinema goers could watch a film at the local Odeon and emulate their favourite film star's clothes, hairstyle, make up or even eyebrows... all in order to stay in vogue and add a touch of luxury in their day to day routine!
Possibly the most copied eyebrows in the world. Greta had to darken her fair brows so they'd be seen on the camera, and female cinema goers followed suit
The ritual of application make became the norm in the '30s, once a taboo it now was de rigueur to apply lipstick and powder paint in public, as Winifred Watson observes out, in her 1938 novel "Miss Pettigrew lives for a day" (which is a jolly good read)
“Come now, Guinevere,” said Miss LaFosse. “You must powder your nose again. It isn’t done not to. Last gesture before entering a room. It gives a sense of confidence...With trembling fingers, nervous, clumsy, contented, for the first time in her life, Miss Pettigrew powdered her own nose. “Do you know,” she said happily. “I think you’re right. It does add a certain assurance to one’s demeanor. I feel it already.”
-Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (1938)
Powder, surprisingly, was more popular than lipstick in the '30s, which saw the rise of ornate powder compacts and even publications giving advice on how to apply the perfect powder base.
|Just in case you didn't know already girls ;)|
|A typical 1930s compact, containing a powder compartment, lipstick applicator and cigarette case|
The next installment will look at architecture, the US depression and UK's Jarrow marches. So watch this space :)