Women’s Fashion During the 1930s Decade

The fashion during the 1930s is a perfect reflection of the societal changes in the world during that time. The Great Depression had hit, and people were financially struggling, so the fashion was minimalist yet elegant. Women’s fashion during the decade had a distinct style, with designers shifting away from the flapper look of the 1920s. Clothes were still feminine, but the focus was on tailored outfits that accentuated a woman’s best features. In this article, we will take a closer look at women’s fashion during the 1930s and how it was influenced by the times.

Women's Fashion During the 1930s Decade
Women’s Fashion During the 1930s Decade

The Influence of the Great Depression on Women’s Fashion

The Great Depression had a profound impact on women’s fashion during the 1930s. With millions of people struggling to make ends meet, fashion was seen as a luxury that many could not afford. As a result, there was a shift towards more practical and affordable clothing options.

New Materials and Styles

During the Great Depression, women’s fashion began to look different due to the need for affordable and practical clothing options. New materials such as synthetic fabrics became more popular because they were cheaper to produce than natural fabrics like silk or wool. Dresses made of rayon, for example, were less expensive than those made of silk. Women’s clothing also became simpler in terms of style and design. The cut of dresses became less elaborate, and the amount of fabric used in each garment decreased. Dresses began to feature more straight lines and simple shapes.

Color and Print

The Great Depression also had an impact on the colors and patterns used in women’s fashion. Bright colors were less popular because they were seen as too flashy and showy. Pastel colors like pale yellow, pink, and blue were more popular because they were seen as more delicate and feminine. Black and white were also popular because they were versatile and could be worn for different occasions. Floral patterns, especially small prints, became popular thanks to their daintiness and feminine appeal.

Additionally, women’s clothes were often made in darker colors and more understated prints during the early years of the Depression. This was because clothing had to be practical and versatile, suitable for wearing during the day as well as for more formal occasions. However, as the 1930s progressed and the ‘drab’ look became less fashionable, brighter colors and larger prints began to gain popularity once again.

The Silhouette and Cut of Women’s Clothing

In the 1930s, women’s clothing took a turn towards a more feminine and sophisticated look. The flapper style of the 1920s, which was characterized by short dresses and loose-fitting clothing, was replaced by longer hemlines and form-fitting garments. The hourglass figure was emphasized, with dresses featuring a nipped-in waist and fitted bodice that flared out softly at the hips. The overall silhouette was streamlined and elegant.

The Bias Cut

One of the most significant changes in women’s fashion during this decade was the introduction of the bias cut. This technique involved cutting fabric on the diagonal, which allowed it to drape and cling to the body’s natural curves. The bias cut became popular in the 1930s, and designers like Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli made it a hallmark of their designs. Dresses made with this technique flow smoothly over the body, creating a sultry and effortlessly alluring look.

The Return of Sleeves

Another trend in women’s fashion during the 1930s was the reintroduction of sleeves. Dresses and blouses featured sleeves of varying lengths, ranging from cap sleeves to full-length sleeves. The sleeves were often puffed or gathered at the shoulder, adding a touch of femininity to the garments. The return of sleeves was a marked departure from the sleeveless styles that were popular during the 1920s.

Skirts and Hemlines

Skirts in the 1930s were typically ankle-length and bias-cut, which gave them a slightly flared appearance. The waistline of skirts was high, often sitting just below the rib cage, which elongated the legs and added height to the overall silhouette. As the decade progressed, designers experimented with hemlines, and some began to offer skirts that were shorter and more flared. These skirts were often paired with fitted blouses, creating a playful yet sophisticated look.

Fabric Choices and Prints

In the 1930s, many new synthetic fabrics were introduced, including rayon and nylon. These fabrics quickly became popular due to their affordability and ease of care. Rayon was often referred to as “artificial silk” because it had a similar feel and was less expensive than real silk. Nylon, on the other hand, was praised for its strength and durability. These synthetic fabrics allowed for more affordable and accessible fashion options for women during the Great Depression.


Women’s clothing in the 1930s often featured bold, eye-catching prints. Florals, stripes, and polka dots were especially popular. These prints were often seen on dresses, blouses, and skirts. Women could express their personal style through the prints they chose. The floral prints were often inspired by nature, which provided a sense of escape from the harsh realities of daily life during the Great Depression. Bold stripes and polka dots added a fun and playful touch to women’s wardrobes.

Pro Tip: When wearing bold prints, keep accessories and other pieces of clothing simple to avoid clashing.

Accessories to Complete the Look

Women’s fashion during the 1930s was characterized by sophistication and elegance. Aside from the clothing itself, accessories were crucial in completing the look. Women’s accessories in the 1930s included gloves, hats, and purses, as well as jewelry and scarves. These items were often coordinated with the outfit and added a finishing touch to the overall look.


Gloves were an essential accessory for women in the 1930s. They were seen as a symbol of elegance and sophistication and were worn with both day and eveningwear. Gloves could be made of a variety of materials, including leather, satin, and silk. Colors ranged from neutral tones to bright, bold hues, and they were often adorned with buttons or bows.


Another important accessory for women was hats. In the 1930s, it was common for women to wear hats with their outfits, particularly when going out in public. There were many different styles of hats to choose from, including berets, cloches, and wide-brimmed hats. They could be made of felt, straw, or fabric and were often decorated with ribbons, feathers, or flowers.


Purses were a fashion accessory that grew increasingly popular during the 1930s. Women would often carry a small purse or clutch that matched their outfit. Purses were made of a variety of materials, including leather, fabric, and even metal. They were often adorned with decorative touches such as beading, embroidery, or sequins.


Jewelry was also an important accessory during the 1930s. Women wore a variety of jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The most popular styles were Art Deco and geometric designs. These pieces were often made from gold, silver, or platinum and were set with diamonds, emeralds, or other precious stones.


Scarves were a versatile accessory that could be worn in many different ways. Women in the 1930s would drape a scarf around their neck or tie it in their hair to add a pop of color to their outfit. Scarves were made of silk or cotton and were often printed with bold patterns or colorful designs.

Hairstyles and Makeup Trends of the 1930s

During the 1930s, women’s fashion was all about elegance and sophistication, and this was reflected in their hairstyles and makeup looks. Soft, feminine curls and waves dominated the hairstyle scene, while bold red lips and defined eyebrows were the go-to for makeup.

Hairstyle Trends

One popular hairstyle during the 1930s was the finger wave. This style was achieved by using a comb to create small, S-shaped waves in the hair and then setting them with hairpins. Women often paired this style with a side part and a low chignon. Another popular hairstyle was the Marcel wave, which involved using a hot curling iron to create loose curls that were then pinned close to the head for a sleek and sophisticated look.

In addition to these classic styles, many women also wore their hair in a simple, pulled-back style known as the “pompadour.” The hair was swept back from the temples and secured with bobby pins, with a bit of volume at the crown to create a more modern look. And for those who wanted a bit of a shorter cut, the “Eton Crop” was a popular choice; this style involved cutting the hair short with a slight wave around the ears and nape of the neck.

Makeup Trends

When it came to makeup, the 1930s were all about a bold, glamorous look. Women often opted for dramatic, full eyebrows that were clearly defined with an eyebrow pencil. For eyeshadow, pastels were a popular choice, with shades of blue and green frequently used to complement the matching clothing of the era. And of course, the most iconic makeup trend of the 1930s was the bold red lip. Many women would draw outside the natural lip line to achieve a fuller appearance and then fill in the lips with a vibrant red hue.

In terms of skincare, moisturizing creams became more widely available during this time, allowing women to achieve a more flawless complexion. And for those who couldn’t afford expensive creams, many turned to natural remedies like rosewater and milk to keep their skin looking fresh and hydrated.

Overall, the hairstyles and makeup looks of the 1930s exuded elegance and sophistication. From soft finger waves to bold red lips, these trends have remained iconic and influential to this day.

Icons of 1930s Women’s Fashion

The 1930s was a decade that marked a significant shift in fashion. Women’s clothing became more practical and functional, with an emphasis on simplicity and elegance. This era saw the rise of many influential women who changed the course of fashion history, including:

1. Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. She revolutionized women’s fashion by introducing practical clothes that were both comfortable and stylish. Chanel’s signature look included a little black dress, a tweed jacket, and a quilted handbag that became iconic items in women’s fashion. Her designs were favored by many Hollywood stars, including Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich.

2. Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford was a famous Hollywood actress who also influenced women’s fashion during the 1930s. She was known for her impeccable sense of style and her love for bold, dramatic clothing. Crawford favored structured silhouettes, padded shoulders, and high-waisted skirts. Her iconic look inspired many women to emulate her style and become more daring in their fashion choices.

3. Bette Davis

Bette Davis was another Hollywood star who had a great impact on women’s fashion during the 1930s. She was known for her unconventional beauty, which she highlighted by wearing clothing that was both elegant and daring. Davis favored form-fitting gowns, low-cut tops, and stylish accessories that helped enhance her natural beauty.

4. Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian fashion designer who gained worldwide fame during the 1930s. She was known for her innovative designs, which often featured bold prints, bright colors, and unusual materials. Schiaparelli was a pioneer in the use of zippers, buttons, and other fastenings that helped make clothing more functional. Her fashion house became very popular among women who wanted to look fashionable and daring.

5. Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson was an American socialite who became famous for her affair with King Edward VIII of England. She was known for her understated yet sophisticated fashion sense, which had a major impact on women’s fashion during the 1930s. Simpson favored simple, elegant clothing that emphasized her slim figure and delicate features. She was often seen wearing tailored suits, long gloves, and discreet jewelry that helped create a refined, timeless look.

6. Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer who was famous for her distinctive voice and androgynous style. She was one of the first women to wear men’s clothing in public, and she helped popularize the tuxedo among women. Dietrich favored sleek, tailored suits that emphasized her strong, angular features, and she accessorized with ties, cufflinks, and minimalist jewelry. Her iconic look inspired many women to experiment with gender-bending clothing and to challenge traditional notions of femininity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions Answers
What was the typical fashion style of women during the 1930s? The typical fashion style for women during the 1930s was represented by chic and glamorous Hollywood movie actresses, who flaunted elegant bias-cut gowns that emphasized their feminine curves.
What fabrics were commonly used for women’s clothing in the 1930s? The most common fabrics used for women’s clothing during the 1930s were cotton, wool, silk, and rayon.
What accessories were popular for women during the 1930s? Popular accessories for women during the 1930s included gloves, hats, belts, purses, and jewelry such as brooches and necklaces.
Did women wear pants during the 1930s? Yes, women did wear pants during the 1930s, although it was not considered socially acceptable for women to wear pants in public until later in the decade.
What was the influence of the Great Depression on women’s fashion in the 1930s? The Great Depression had a significant impact on women’s fashion in the 1930s, as it led to more practical and affordable clothing styles, including tailored suits and dresses made from inexpensive fabrics.
What is the legacy of 1930s women’s fashion? The legacy of 1930s women’s fashion is a timeless and elegant style that still influences fashion today, including the use of bias-cut fabrics, streamlined silhouettes, and playful prints and patterns.

Thank You for Joining Us on a Trip Down Memory Lane

That’s a wrap on our exploration of women’s fashion during the 1930s decade. We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and found our article informative. Please visit us again soon for more fashion history and style tips!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *