Fashion of the 1930s was directly influenced by the great Wall Street Crash of October 24, 1929 and subsequent Depression. The Autumn, 1930 Sears Catalogue admonished, “Thrift is the spirit of the day. Reckless spending is a thing of the past.” The beginning of the decade saw women sewing more. Clothing was mended and patched before being replaced.
A softer, more feminine style replaced the boyish, flapper look of the twenties. At the beginning
of the decade, hemlines dropped dramatically to the ankle and remained there until the end of the thirties.Necklines were lowered while torsos were sensuously molded beneath squared shoulders.
Skirts were also designed in great detail with moderately full skirts accentuating a small waist and minimizing the hips. Dress bodices were designed with inset pieces and yokes. Necklines received dramatic attention, often with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars.
The entertainment industry continued to exert a strong influence over fashion. Movies were one of the few escapes from the harsh reality of the Depression. Movie star endorsements of styles and accessories became common, especially with evening wear.
A popular formal look was the empire-waisted gown, with ties at the back. The dress might boast butterfly or large, puffy sleeves. Hemlines fell at the ankle and trains added a further formal touch. Fabric flowers might be placed at the neckline, on one shoulder, or at the center waist or center neckline.
Bows were another popular accent. The peplum made its debut in the late thirties evening wear.
Fur of all kinds was worn extensively during this era, both during the day and at night. Fur capes, coats, stoles wraps, accessories and trimmings adorned women’s dresses. Pelts in demand were sable, mink, chinchilla, Persian lamb and silver fox.
The cloche hat was replaced by the beret which was worn at an angle. Pill boxes became popular along with brimmed hats. Popular hairstyles for women were still worn close to the head with the deep set, finger waves and later the waves loosened up.
A variety of shoe styles was available during this era. Rounded toes were seen with wide, thick heels. Pumps and flat shoes were available, and ankle strap styles with moderate heels also appeared. Slip-on styles, lace-up shoes and buckle shoes were all worn. Spectator or two-tone shoes appeared in the early thirties.
Handbags of the early thirties looked like those of the twenties. Beaded bags were abundant, as well as enameled mesh bags. During the later part of the decade, leather became very popular.
This decade saw many improvements in mass production techniques, which meant a wider range of women now had access to well-made clothes. The advent of War in 1939 however stopped civilian access to clothing manufacturers for several years while the country focused on the war effort. On September 3, 1939 England and France declared war on Germany.