The 1930s body ideal
In comparison to the 1920s body ideal, the 1930s were completely different. Sleek and slinky, stooped shoulders and low breast. They also had a natural waistline and streamline hips. What a difference to that little boxy doll-like look of the 1920s.
The 1930s beauty ideal
The 1930s was the time of the great depression. Rich people got richer and poor people got even poorer. Some children were even sleeping in boxes on the street. Although it was a depressing time for some, places like Hollywood became more and more glamorous. You could also see a change in the beauty ideal. Even though the 1920s beauty ideal was more sad looking, the 1930s took a more uplifting look. The colors were lighter and more natural around the eyes and the eyebrows were incredibly high arched and ridiculously thin. The reason why the eyes were lighter was that it was all about the eyelashes. False eyelashes. A more natural and quite glossy red lip to finish the look. The hair was flatter but still in a bob line haircut.
Fashion of the 1930s
The fashion of the ‘30s was all about propriety and ladylike femininity. Rules were back in force, and the look was softly tailored with gentle prints, (mostly) muted colors, and a delicacy that was a direct backlash to the boyish boldness of the ‘20s.
But why? Think about it. The depression was a terrifying time. When people are frightened they don’t want to show a lot of skin, so hemlines dropped. But moreover, people were feeling contrite. They were being like when I’m proper, ladylike and I follow the rules maybe this hell will stop happening.
In the ‘30s you did not go anywhere without your hat and gloves. An ultra feminine dress with a fitted waist. Fur if you could afford it, which most people couldn’t.
The 1930s palette is very soft and muted. It’s ladylike and elegant. Forget those bold hues of the 1920s. Yet the ‘30s was also playful and played with a lot of fun fashion ideas like polka-dots. People were crazy for polka-dots. Every woman looks her best in polka-dots; ever fresh, youthful, becoming and always fashion right.
While the poor were miserable and starving in Shantytowns or struggling through Dust Bowl. The wealthy stay wealthy and liked to show off their wealth with evening wear that was so sexy, often with a sort of metallic sheen. Mostly worn by movie stars of that decade.
With these sexy dresses came a new concept: Backless. It was sexy and shocking but mostly it was gorgeous.
Designer of the Decade
The designer of the decade this time is Elsa Schiaparelli and she was Italian. She was very aligned with the surrealist art movement. She was friends with people like Dali. Scap, as she was known to her friends, offered surrealist fun and silly whimsy to an increasingly frightened and desperate world. She designed things like gloves with nail polish or a hat that looked like a shoe. One of her most famous dresses is the black skeleton dress. The Great Depression was devastating lives. Fascism was on the rise in Europe. The ‘30s was the time when Mussolini was in Italy, Franco in Spain and of course Hitler in Germany were on the rise and Scap knew all of this. She responded with light-hearted escapism and Coco Chanel absolutely hated her. She refused to speak her name, referring to her only as the Italian. Chanel was only about clothing being functional, serious and chic. Schiaparelli was about fun, glamour, whimsy and apart from Chanel, everybody else adored her.
“In difficult times fashion is always outrageous.” – Elsa Schiaparelli
Our style icon of this decade is Greta Garbo and she was an actress. She was originally from Sweden but she came to the United States and became a big Hollywood star. And the Guinness Book of World Records declared her to be the most beautiful woman of all time ever. She was extraordinary looking but in terms of fashion, she was the first person ever to really embrace this kind of slouchy pant look. She made casual extremely chic.
“Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.” – Greta Garbo
Another style icon is Marlene Dietrich and she was a Hollywood movie star. Although she was German and had a lovely German accent and a most incredible face. She began her career in Germany playing naughty girls and she was the first woman to dress like a man. The first androgynous superstar if you will. She was very famous for wearing a man’s tuxedo and a top hat. But in her private life, she wore pants suits constantly. In fact, the mayor of Paris told her that if she ever wore a pants suit in his city again, she would be banned from Paris for life. She carried on with wearing pants suits and of course she wasn’t banned. But still she was a revolutionary dresser and she had a look.
“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” – Marlene Dietrich