What type of clothing did women wear during the 1930s?

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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What type of clothing did women wear during the 1930s?
Women's clothing of the 1930s reflected thrift and quality design. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

The 1930s were a difficult time for many people as the country dealt with the collapse of the economy followed by the Great Depression. This created a more restrained approach toward clothing and fashion, and the wild party styles of the 1920s gave way to more sombre and traditional women's dresses. The style was trim with the dresses hugging the body and additional dressmaker details to show off the figure while still being discreet.

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Thrift became a necessary thought process when people lost their jobs and resources and could no longer afford new clothing. Women who had minimal work experience began to need more work-ready clothing made of durable fabrics in designs that held up over lots of use. Fashion responded by producing dresses that had timeless lines made of quality fabrics that women could pair with other items to update the look. It was common for a woman to have only a few dresses in her closet.

Evening Wear

Evening dresses of the 1930s seemed to challenge the restraint of day wear. It was common for a woman to wear a lame sheath or a dress with lots of sequins and beads. A woman may have owned only one fabulous dress but she wore it well. The cut was movie-star sleek with the introduction of cowl and halter neck line. Designer Madeleine Vionnet reintroduced the fashion world to the bias cut and transformed the way fabrics draped across the curves of the female body. This cut continues in popularity with modern designers.


Skirts of the 1930s were cut lower on the back than the front and were designed to hug the figure of the woman. Designers created godets and pleats behind the knee to allow the woman to move easily. Skirt length was mid to lower calf and women often paired skirts with fitted shirts, jackets and sweaters. Well-made skirts were lined and heavy by today's standards, but they moved well and held up to frequent wear.


One of the most important events in women's fashion was the invention of nylon and the replacement of stockings with nylons. A movement in fashion toward less constrained and traditional dress shapes and forms followed. Shorter jackets and stronger and more masculine shoulder lines became popular with movie stars and quickly moved into everyday clothing. Design became more daring and shorter, using stronger colours and new fabrics.

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