Women's Clothes of the 1930s

Written by aleksandra ozimek
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Women's Clothes of the 1930s
1930s clothes consisted of elegant, comfortable looks that shaded skin from excess sun. (Hulton Collection/Valueline/Getty Images)

An era of romance and subtle extravagance, the 1930s were a pivotal time in women's fashion, where less was definitely more. Outfits were simple yet feminine, with both businesslike influences and more casual style. Wrap skirts, simple blouses, V-neck cardigans, long free-flowing dresses and short elegant jackets were just some of the elements represented during that time. Perfection was represented by a look that was not only elegant and wealthy but also casual and fun. Clothing was often handmade, since as the 1930 Sears Catalog declared, "Thrift is the spirit of the day. Reckless spending is a thing of the past."

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An issue of Good Housekeeping from April 1930 shows that in those days, dresses were made to show off a woman's feminine features by being cinched at the waist. These dresses were long and free-flowing, with low V-necklines and were known as the "1930s Trousseau." Since the dresses were elegant yet simple, they would be worn for tea time or lunch in high or middle class society. They were snug at the waist, then gathered or pleated, with a wider hem on the bottom, a pattern known as the "cross cut bias" style. The sleeves on these dresses were 3/4 length or shorter, and the hem fell between the knees and the shin. The most popular dress colours were red, navy, white and black. Sometimes dresses were paired with short, elegant jackets for formal dinners.

Daytime Outfits

Simple day outfits were influenced by businesslike style. These feminine outfits consisted of two-piece V-neck cardigans, simple blouses and button-down wrap skirts. The look for both men and women in the 1930s was long and sleek. Skirts were often wider on the bottom and made of thick fabric, and blouses were made with shoulder pads to broaden the shoulders. V-neck styles were the most popular and were often accented with lace and ruffles. V-neck sweaters or cardigans were worn by women with long skirts. Common fabrics included tweed, cotton, rayon, silk and wool. The hemline in daytime outfits reached mid-calf, and the skirts were full, designed to accentuated the waist and minimised the hips. Women's suits were well-tailored with feminine pleats, flares or straight styles and tightly fitted jackets.

Evening Outfits

Evening outfits for women in the 1930s consisted of ankle-length or floor-length hemlines. Dresses or skirts for the evening were full and accentuated the waist. They commonly had flounces, seams or pleats, and were made of similar fabrics as the daytime skirts and dresses. These long skirts and dresses were long and slender, often featuring ruffles or flares. Low necklines, soft gathers, ruffled collars and scallop-edged necklines were just some popular features of evening wear. Most evening dresses were backless, with bloused bodices and fox furs. A popular dress style was the empire-waist gown tied at the back, according to Just the Swing, an online 1930s fashion source. Necklines would be adorned with flowers or bows. Silk dresses became popular in the late 1930s.

Lounge Wear

Most women wore house dresses or nightgowns around the house, which were often made with shoulder pads to mimic evening dresses. Dressier house dresses could be worn for social occasions at home or for playing cards. During the summers, lounge wear consisted of shorts or playsuits made from cotton or rayon. Since a passion for sports arose, sportswear was made more comfortable for women and often consisted of backless swimsuits made of linen and Lastex yarn, sometimes baring midriffs. In the 1930s, clothes were often worn all day rather than being changed several times throughout the day for different occasions.


Fur was a must-have accessory for many women. Fur capes, coats, stoles, wraps, trimmings and accessories dressed up women's outfits. Undergarments consisted of so-called corsets, which were made up of a brassiere and girdle with garters. Women wore a separate bra and girdles, instead of one-piece corsets. The shoes worn by women in this era featured rounded toes with a wide, thick heel. Both pumps and flats were popular, in addition to ankle strap styles with heels. Other styles included slip-ons, lace-ups and buckle shoes. At this time, nylon hose replaced rayon hose and zippers replaced buttons. Women wore gloves that matched their shoes and handbags, and their hats were worn at an angle. Popular hat styles included the pillbox toque, the trimmed turban and the beret.

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