What Were They Wearing in the 1930s?

Written by carol stanley
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What Were They Wearing in the 1930s?
The great depression was during the 30s. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Clothes during the 1930s reflected the onset of and recovery from the Great Depression. Luxury fabrics were scarce and were replaced with synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon. People became more active, wearing shorts and tops when outdoors. Movie icons greatly influenced men and women's fashions. Styles of French designers Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet were popular with affluent women. Zippers and elastic surfaced during the 30s, replacing buttons and hooks.

Women's Clothing

Daytime dresses for women were often bright colour solids and prints and mid-calf length. Women also loved soft wool crepes that clung to the body, as well as knife-pleated skirts. Short waistline jackets were popularly worn over dresses. Women enjoyed wearing dresses with tight bodices to exaggerate their waistlines. Blouses and sweaters with wrap skirts were part of women's uniforms for day wear. Nylon was often the fabric of the day used for blouses, dresses and skirts.

For casual wear, women wore simple house dresses while doing their daily chores and dressier house dresses were worn for going out, playing cards and visiting with friends.

Women's Evening Attire and Accessories

Fancy evening attire was often designed for the rich who did not have to worry about shortages of suitable fabrics. Dresses with low-cut, draped necklines and fabrics of metallic lame, plastic sequins and glass beads were styles of choice. Backless dresses -- ankle length -- were enhanced with fur stoles and wraps. Women wore long gloves to match their handbags and hats. Pillbox and turban style hats were worn by women when going out. Fabric flowers adorned hats and dresses.

Shoes sported rounded toes with wide thick medium heels. Ankle straps were popular for evening wear. Casual shoes included slip on shoes and lace-up, oxford types.

Men and Boys

Both men and boys wore three-piece suits in dark fabrics and subtle stripes, with wide shoulders and lapels. Men wore white butterfly-collared shirts with dark, plain, thin ties. Trousers became more tailored and narrowed towards the cuffs. For evening wear during the middle 30s, men opted for white jackets with a cummerbund which replaced the waistcoat. Men wore fedora hats as well as a variety of berets and top hats.

Boys wore knickers with button-down shirts and vest sweaters. Argyle socks of knicker length could be purchased in bright colours and patterns.

Girls' Clothes

Young girls' clothes were influenced by movie icon Shirley Temple. Dresses had puffed sleeves, small collars and short skirts flowing from the shoulders. Young girls occasionally wore shorts for playtime. Shoes were flat with buckles. High school girls wore mid-calf length skirts with very baggy sweaters. Fabrics were scarce so many moms were busy sewing with whatever fabric was on hand. Girls wore moccasins with no socks and saddle shoes with short socks. Though few teenagers were part of the workforce, their work attire was simple house dresses or long skirts with blouses and pumps.

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