The 1930s was an era of extravagance and
glamour. Society was emerging from the Great Depression. One of the
most important influences contributing to the elegant fashions of the
1930s was the American Cinema. Hollywood movie stars such as Bette
Davis, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Vivian Leigh and Marlene Dietrich,
all of them sultry and sexy, set the stage for escape from a world of
loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of the American Dream and the
entrance into a world of glamour and sophistication. From 1926 to 1932
the styles of the roaring 20s continued to characterize fashion, but
with the addition of some subtle features that became very noticeable
during the remainder of the 30s. These style changes were the bias-cut,
the hemlines, and the use of synthetic fabrics.
were no longer knee length and androgynous. A more conservative
population turned to floor length gowns that clung to the body, usually
in silk velvet or silk satin. The use of bias-cut fabrics encased
women’s figures, creating a beautiful drape and exposing the feminine
curves with plunging necklines and natural waistlines. Many gowns
highlighted a bare back almost bare to the waist or a bare shoulder.
Another popular feature was the use of “handkerchief hems.” These
asymmetric hems were created from fabric panels of different lengths and
were used by designers to transition from the short hems of the flappers
to the longer more feminine look. For everyday garments there was a
widespread use of less expensive man-made materials, especially rayon.
The use of the zipper also became widespread as it was less expensive to
use than the labor intensive button holes and hooks and eyes. Fabric
flowers or bows on one shoulder or in the center of the waistband or at
the neckline rounded out the new fashions.