The Great Depression greatly influenced Hollywood and movie star fashions during the 1930s. The bad economy made importing French designer clothes expensive. Americans flocked to movie theatres for cheap entertainment that allowed them an escape from daily life. The climate surrounding Hollywood in the 1930s gave American designers the chance to showcase their talent.
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Hollywood Costume Designer Gilbert Adrian
Prior to the 1930s, America imported most of its fashion from Europe, but Parisian designs became too expensive for all but the very rich. Hollywood costume designers developed an American style through outfitting the stars of the day. Gilbert Adrian, head designer at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, set the trend for many women's fashions. Adrian designed the blue gingham dress worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz," the Grecian inspired sloping V-neck dress Katherine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story" and the signature looks of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.
Movie Star Trend Setters
A star's signature look tended to resonate through the characters they played and their acceptance by movie audiences. Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich's broad-shouldered, structured suits and trousers mirrored the powerful assertiveness of the actresses on and off screen. Jean Harlow's platinum blond hair was not only her trademark, but also the title of one of her earliest film successes. The sweetness of Shirley Temple, the 1930s biggest film star, set the tone for little girls fashioning their hair in ringlet curls and keeping a doll version of the actress as a close companion.
Hollywood impacted men's fashions as well. The popularity of westerns increased the sale of cowboy-inspired attire for both old and young. Clark Gable's lack of an undershirt, a particularly important article of men's clothing during the 1930s, in the movie "It Happened One Night" caused a 75 per cent decline in undershirt sales.
Hollywood Tries to Look Rich
The escapist fantasies of rags-to-riches tales permeated film during the 1930s, allowing Hollywood the opportunity to create iconic designs. Actresses dressed in floor-length chiffon, cinched waistlines and heavily padded shoulders. Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant dressed in the Windsor and Kent, double-breasted suit styles named after the Prince of Windsor and the Duke of Kent, respectively.
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