1930s Farming Costumes for Women

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1930s Farming Costumes for Women
Between the Great Depression and wars, poverty was the defining point of women farmer's fashion. (Fox Photos/Valueline/Getty Images)

The 1930s was a time of depression for America. Poverty forced many men and women to choose between a life of low wages or a life on the farm working to eat. During this time, farm women were seen in stark contrast to city women on the pages of the magazines. Female farmers of this decade were known to wear their traditional tea- or full-length skirts or to cast them aside in favour of trousers for the more laborious farm work required of them, while city women were seen in high couture.

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Traditional Women's Farming Costumes

The traditional garb of the female farmer in Great Britain and America varied little between the 1850s through the 1940s. The hemlines went up slightly, and sleeves shortened, but most women worked in the traditional cotton dress beneath an apron or a pinafore. Woollen capes or sweaters kept them warm during harsher seasons, and stockings and sensible shoes kept their feet safe during bouts of hard work.

Recycled Clothing for Young Women

The 1930s was a time of the Great Depression in America, which stripped the populace of the funds necessary to purchase such things as new garments or even enough food to eat. Ever the innovators, women turned to recycled or reused materials for clothing, including large flour sacks or the livestock feedbags that farmers purchased to keep the farm going. Young women farmers were known to wear "flour sack dresses" during this time. Farm women also were known to create their own patterns for clothes, make all the clothes for the family, and knit socks and mittens, too.

Generic Farming Women's Costuming in the 1930s

Generically speaking, farm women (or "countrywomen") in both America and the United Kingdom were seen in strict opposition to their urban counterparts. Whereas urban women had frilly clothes with lots of embellishments, farm women wore clothing that was loosefitting and unadorned. A basic button-down shirt dress with short sleeves made from cotton in a simple print (such as gingham or chintz) or a solid colour was the normal dress for a farm woman.

The Great Britain Women's Land Army Farming Costume

Great Britain had a novel approach to farming during both world wars that had a direct impact on women farmer's fashion. World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) found entire generations of men from all over Western Europe on the front lines of war. The women left behind in England during WWII, for example, were familiar with the needs of the soldiers, having just endured it less than 20 years prior; and so, at the start of the war toward the end of the 1930s, the Women's Land Army (WLA) was created in Great Britain to keep farms growing and harvesting food. The traditional WLA uniform consisted of short trousers, high socks, brown shoes, a brown tea-length trench coat, a green necktie and a white button-down shirt topped with a brown hat.

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