The Great Depression and World War II bookended the 1930s, but fashion flourished anyway during this decade. Glamorous Hollywood screen stars inspired new looks for women, men, and even children. Inexpensive fabrics, affordable catalog clothing, and homespun ingenuity let anyone copy styles previously worn by the wealthy.
The young, boyish silhouette of 1920s women evolved into a conservative, sophisticated shape in the 1930s. The ideal, popular profile was tall and thin, with strong shoulders and slim hips.
At home or in public, women most commonly wore dresses with wide shoulders; puffy sleeves; modest necklines; higher, belted waistlines; and mid-calf flared hemlines. Frilly bows, ruffles, buttons, and other details often decorated dresses.
Housewives wore practical house dresses at home, often homemade from colorful printed cotton (including flour and feed sack fabric). Day dresses for wearing in public were more tailored and elegant, often made from silk or rayon crepe. Some women wore blouses with skirts.
Formal dresses most dramatically displayed the decade’s willowy, elegant silhouette. Evening gowns in fluid fabrics were cut on the bias to create flowing, figure-hugging lines that reached the floor. Popular fabrics included satin, rayon, and chiffon.
Take a look at these found photos to see what women wore from the 1930s.