The look of women's fashion in 1930

Written by gigi starr
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The look of women's fashion in 1930
(2008 Costumer's Manifesto)

Fashion in 1930 was about romance, femininity and sensuality, although expressed in a more mature manner than the Roaring Twenties. Nipped waistlines, sweeping skirts and detail were the order of the day. Depression era fashion combined ingenuity with sleek lines and synthetic easy-care fabrics. The influence of fashion around 1930 can still be felt to this day.


Women's fashion in the 1930s was built along simpler lines than the previous era of the 1920s. By the late 1920s, the Great Depression hit, along with the first wave of women's liberation. Women had gained the vote in both Britain and England by 1920, and were leaving the house to work in significant numbers.

Fashion reflected societal changes by becoming young, hip and trendy. Skirt hemlines rose, and hair shortened. There was a swing towards fun and frivolity after the din of World War I. However, the Depression dampened many of these high spirits, bringing hemlines back down to mid-calf and rendering clothes several degrees more sombre at times. Hard times called for less flash. Embellishment by pattern-cutting and design overtook trendiness, with artful tailoring coming to the forefront. There was still some softening to be seen, though.


The 1930s were a time of understated, sensual romance in women's clothing. The name of the game was "less is more." This is the time of the small pillbox hat, interesting seams and feminine hair. Ruffles and gown cut on the bias came back into fashion, bringing a super-feminine aesthetic to fashion.

For day wear, ladies favoured suits or dresses. Often, they were A-line, falling in the area of mid-calf or right below the knee later in the decade. Jackets were nipped in at the waist by design or belt. Shoes favoured a low- to mid-level heel, although flats and tie-ups were also available. Hair was still short to medium length in 1930, due to the influence of the flapper's favourite "bob" haircut, but would grow longer in later years.

At night, evening dresses fell to full-length. Arms were free or covered. Sometimes, designers would accentuate the hemline by cutting it into a handkerchief hem (varied length), or add pleating to the sides in order to add fullness.


The 1920s and 1930s brought the idea of womanly glamour to the forefront of fashion once more. Before that, the silhouette had been boyish, straight and square. Now, women were able to show their curves off in ultra-feminine styles. In the 2000s, we now look back to 1930 and think of class, elegance and clean sensuality. The "retro" look that many ladies now sport is one inspired by 30s era actresses like Joan Crawford; it evokes feelings of strength in hard times and romance. The simple, sleek lines of 1930 and beyond inspired many concepts of modern-day "chic."


When thinking of fashion in 1930, it helps to remember that the world was going through much upheaval. Much of Europe was still recovering from the first World War. The Great Depression wasn't just an American phenomenon, but an international one. Many were attempting to join together the ideas and fashions of French houses like Chanel and Vionnet with the obvious and cold needs of practical living.

Also, increased manufacturing and technology developed better products for hair and beauty. By 1930, women were able to get curly perm processes at their salon, and could also buy clothing made from easy-to-clean synthetic fabrics. Of course, natural textiles such as leather were still popular.


1930 brought about an era of fashion and beauty that is still with us today. The sense of nostalgia surrounding the little hats and classic, feminine suit still stay with us today. Modern designers and celebrities often hark back to that era for inspiration when dressing for awards shows and designing ready-to-wear women's collections. The return to the feminine also brought us the era of Hollywood golden girls that are still icons to this day. Fashion in 1930 left a lasting impression on the fabric of American beauty.

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