A Fashionable History: ’30s Edition

Don’t let bygones be bygones. Channel 1930s fashion in your looks today.

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1930s fashion
Women attending the race at Warwick Farm Racecourse in Australia 1934 via Wikimedia Commons

I’m going to go ahead and admit that prior to researching this article, I knew very little about 1930s fashion. It doesn’t seem like people talk about it much.

While styles from the ’60s through the ’90s are making a comeback and the ’40s and ’50s are always classically vintage, the ’30s are rarely mentioned. Well, no more, I say! 

The ’30s represent an important transition period between the extravagance of the ’20s and the conservative looks of the early ’40s, but more than that, the decade has a style all its own. I’ll take you through it below.

1930s Fashion Overview

As the stock market crashed in late 1929 and America began to feel the effects of the Great Depression, conservative fashion styles began to replace the glitz of the ’20s. Waistlines nipped back in and skirt lengths dropped back down. ’30s fashion placed an emphasis on a strong yet feminine silhouette with bias cut dresses and v line silhouettes with shoulder pads and exaggerated sleeves becoming all the rage. 

The decade saw the first widespread use of manmade fabrics and zippers rather than natural fibers and buttons, all in the name of cost-cutting and convenience. Accessories gained popularity as well, since a woman could spruce up an old frock with a new hat or gloves. Costume jewelry also became a big seller, as it was inexpensive and had a lot of flair.

Some of the decade’s most important style changes came from the silver screen. With the Great Depression sweeping the country, many Americans escaped to the movie theaters to be distracted by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood pictures. Stars like Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich became style icons, as women dreamed of wearing the glittering gowns and sharp looks designed for them. 

Outfits Inspired by 1930s Fashion

If you want to show some love for the styles of this under-appreciated era, here are a few outfits to get you started! Look #1 is the simplest of the bunch, while #2 brings in a little more of the decade, and look #3 goes all out. Whichever you choose, I hope these outfits can help you find your 1930s inspiration. 

Outfit #1: Silver Age

1930s fashion - outfit inspired by the 30s with Striped sweater, skinny jeans, golden jewelry and purse, strappy heels

Products: Jeans – Levis, Shirt – ASOS, Heels – Target, Purse – Amazon

Though the fashions on the silver screen weren’t what women in the ’30s were actually wearing, they did have an impact on ’30s styles, and honestly, they’re just too gorgeous to skip over.

One of the most popular silhouettes of the ’30s was a V-shaped look, which helped to flatter the presence of the corset. This v-neck shirt carries an art-deco themed print which was very prominent in the 1930s. I styled it up for a modern look with of-the-moment skinnies and strappy heels.

Finally, I added some Hollywood glam to the ensemble with golden accessories, namely a glitzy bag and some statement earrings.

Outfit #2: The LBD

1930s fashion outfit with little black dress, simple strappy heels, lipstick and brow gel

Products: Dress – H&M, Shoes – Amazon, Brow Pencil – Sephora, Lipstick in Sexy Sienna – Sephora

Though the Little Black Dress was introduced by Coco Chanel in 1926, it didn’t truly become a must-have item until the 1930s, when simplicity and versatility were the name of the game.

This strappy LBD is a modern take on the classic, while maintaining a very simple look, perfect for combating the intense summer heat.

1930s beauty revolved around pencil thin eyebrows. While I wouldn’t recommend plucking your brows out, I included eyebrow-specific cosmetics to help define your arch.

I also made sure to add a lipstick, a luxury women indulged in regularly due to the high consumerism rates of the time.

Finally, a slim pair of heels to help elevate this look, making it easy to rock for a fun night out.

Outfit #3: Feminine Yet Work-Ready

1930s fashion - outfit inspired by the 1930s with chunky loafers, pencil skirt, loose blouse, necklace

Products: Pencil Skirt – Old Navy, Blouse – H&M, Necklace – H&M, Shoes – Amazon

Due to massive economic turmoil, more women were taking on roles beyond domesticated spaces to contribute to their stability. They were finding positions in areas beyond offices and the like, by means of employment in factories, farms, and other industrial places.

This meant that the concept of form had to be reinvented to provide absolute mobility, while still maintaining the delicate balance of femininity.

For this outfit, I chose a fitted pencil skirt, a modern work staple, but dressed it down with a pair of simple shoes and a plain blouse.

One of the biggest fashion changes during the Dirty Thirties was the reclamation of waistlines, as women were moving away from the drop waist trend that had been popular throughout the 1920s.

Costume jewelry became trendy during this time period, due to the cheapness of the product, which made it more accessible to a wider range of women than fine jewelry. The statement quality of the piece that I picked is a play off of this theme, while adding to the femininity of the outfit.

More Styles by the Decade:

Want to travel to a different decade with your style? See my other posts on ’90s fashion, ’80s fashion, ’70s fashion, ’60s fashion’50s fashion, and ’40s fashion for more!

What’s your opinion on 30s fashion?

Are you planning to incorporate 1930s style into your look this year? Are there any 1930s fashion trends you think I should have included? Are there any ’30s trends you wish would come back in style? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “A Fashionable History: ’30s Edition”

  1. Very informative and love the outfits definitly I am going to incorporate 1930s style into my looks. Also the V shape works for my pear shaped body. It’s true , the fashion of that decade is underpreciated, but as a transition between two iconic and much talked decades it is not easy to recognize.

  2. Yay! The 30’s has always been my favorite decade for fashion! The fashion of the films of that period were actually particularly important, since they were often overexaggerated fantasic creations to distract people from the daily life of the depression. (1939 was the golden year in Hollywood, after all!) I’ve always wanted everything Ginger Rogers ever wore during her 30’s heyday!


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