For some women, vintage clothing can be very fashionable as well as desirable to wear. Clothing was designed so corsets did not have to be worn and the natural curves of the feminine shape were much more appealing than the straight-line dresses that were once popular in the 1920’s. Day dresses became common if only for making it easier for women to move around and take care of daily household chores. Skirts were designed for modesty and fell below the knees. One of the most famous fashion designers of that decade was Elsa Schiaparelli, who designed jackets to go with her black dresses and bright, feminine colors versus pastel colored dresses that were designed by Madeleine Vionnet. The actress Marlene Dietrich favored Schiaparelli’s clothing, making the masculine-style box shoulders popular with American women. The one important notion that Elsa used in women’s dresses was the zipper, particularly ones that were colored and plastic, which are now widespread in clothing as well as home accessories such as pillow covers. Between the dresses designed for comfort and the tailored style of Schiaparelli, women had a variety of dresses, blouses, and skirts to choose from for the then popular feminine look. A third popular designer of the 1930’s was Coco Chanel, who also capitalized on the square shoulders of women’s dresses.
The one part of women’s fashion that received the most attention during the 1930’s was the shoulders and sleeves. This might seem obvious with Schiaparelli’s creation of the box shoulder for women but other designers created different types of shoulders, from the puffy look to flat pleats creating a softer width. Butterfly and leg of mutton sleeves were popular in many dresses from this decade. Other dresses had simple straight sleeves that form fitted a woman’s arms. The waistline was kept natural but some dresses had what is called an empire line, which is simply a slightly raised waistline. Necklines had a variety of collars depending on the dress or no collar, with just a V-neck.
Shoes were just as stylish as the dresses were. Compared to today’s shoes, shoes in the 1930’s were designed for comfort and not just appearance. Shoes had round-shaped toes with either high, medium, or low heels. Shoe closures included laces, ankle straps, and buckles, while others were simple slip ons.
Evening wear of the 1930’s was elegant, decorated with beads and sequins at the collars and wrists. The black dress popularized by Schiaparelli usually had a low back with sleeves in any number of styles, whether short or long, with bows or flowers as a decoration on the front.
Given these brief descriptions of 1930’s styles for women, it is not difficult to understand why some women prefer to wear clothing from this decade. The dress and skirt lines were pleasing to the eye as well as modest. Examples of such clothing are available on this site .
It is still possible to buy as well as sew clothes from the 1930’s if you enjoy sewing. Consignment and thrift stores are great places to find vintage clothing. McCall, Butterick, and Simplicity patterns can also be found in thrift stores. If you happen to find some, make sure all the pattern pieces and instructions are in the envelope.
Enjoy your 1930’s wardrobe!