Did You Know?
Sam Goldwyn of the prestigious Hollywood media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, paid Coco Chanel a million dollars (about 80 million today) in the year 1931, to create some outfits, both on an off-screen, for some of the company's top actresses.
To protect her position in the industry against new, upcoming designers, she accepted the offer. However, the attempt sadly backfired, and the public did not warm up to Chanel's designs. The dresses were labeled too conservative and boring for Hollywood!
The 1930s was an important decade in the history of fashion, albeit not as talked about as the sensational twenties. This was the time when everyone was reeling from the after-effects of the Wall Street crash, when the Great Depression hit.
Fashion became affordable, conservative, and mature as compared to the flamboyant flapper dresses and short hairstyles of the '20s. Different fabrics were introduced as replacements for expensive materials; fashion designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Madeleine Vionnet introduced fashionably smart and new trends that caught up very fast.
Most of the fashion that we see today began in this significant decade, including ready-to-wear dresses and zippers! Let's now get into the details of the fashion industry's development in the 1930s.
At the advent of the '30s, the flapper dresses of the previous decade began to be replaced by longer hemlines, darker and subdued colors, and mature cuts. Hollywood icons played a major influence on the 1930s' style clothing, and the dresses worn by celebrities like Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Joan Crawford began to be seen everywhere.
Puff sleeves, many times adorned with ruffles and other designs were very common, popularized by Joan Crawford. Necklines were moderately low, and were either V or crossed, many times with accents such as laces, buttons, and ruffles.
Evening wear evolved to silks and such other slinky fabric. It was commonly high-necked and low-to-no-backed. The dresses were floor-length, with different types of sleeve designs and necklines. Bows, buttons, lace, and ruffles were popular adornments.
The empire waist was widely used, wherein the waist of the dress ends a little further down the bust, and the skirt falls in a billowy manner, with the dress tied at the back. The cross cut bias style was also widely used in all kinds of dresses. The back was cut at an angle of 45° from the base line on both sides, giving it a cross-over look.
Hair and makeup
Hair was worn longer in the '30s than in the '20s, and was normally side-parted. Curls and waves were the rage, with most of the women, including movie stars sporting this style.
Suntanning had not caught up much in the '30s, and pale skin was still fashionable. Rogue was an extremely popular makeup item, along with lipsticks and nail polish. Pencil-thin eyebrows were very in, and many women would actually tweeze out their eyebrows completely to draw them on with pencil for getting the desired shape and look!
Swimwear evolved to become a little more revealing in the '30s as compared to the past years. The styles became slightly shorter and more feminine. Two-piece swimsuits were also introduced, but they were not as common. Sportswear too became more fitting, shorter, and more appropriate for sports.
Inner wear changed to a great extent. Materials like satin began to be used. Hemlines of garments were removed, to prevent it from being visible through fitting fabric. Corsets came in newer designs. This was the decade when cup sizes were introduced for the very first time, making shopping convenient for women.
The zipper was first used in women's clothing by Madeleine Vionnet, and it soon became extremely popular. Ready-made clothing began to sell in the '30s, around the second world war, as people were looking for convenient dress options. The Depression brought fabrics that were cheaper than silk and rayon; substitutes like nylon and cotton were used.
For men, double-breasted suits in dark colors, hats, and ties were the norm. Young boys wore shorts with long socks. Three-piece suits were worn for formal occasions. These suits had broad shoulders, and the trousers would be high at the waist and pleated. Informal occasions could call for an attire of a sweater vest and trousers.
Among men, there was a fashion of wearing the hat over the face; among women, the hat would be worn over one eye. During the '30s, men's clothing was very easy to shop for, as it came in an entire package, right from the tie to the shoes! Ties were introduced in wool, and satin was slowly being replaced as the popular choice for clothing.
Hairstyles were natural. Setting gels and various styling methods were unpopular, and short, side-parted, natural-looking hair was in. Elder gentlemen maintained mustaches, while it was not as common among the younger men.
The '30s was an era of change and evolving trends in fashion. Clothing moved from being mere fashion to something more practical and convenient. Iconic designers changed the course of this industry to what it is today. Without them, it may not have been possible.