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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Your Style Guide to the 1930s

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

The 1930s saw the rise of the Hollywood star and she began to influence the outfits of everyday women. Marlene Dietrich in her androgynous tuxedos, and Katharine Hepburn in her flowing trousers and make up free face were a breath of fresh air. That’s not to say that Hollywood agreed with its stars clothing decisions – there’s a story of Hepburn walking around the studio in her underwear as her slacks had “gone missing”, helpfully replaced by a skirt, which she refused to wear and stayed in her underwear until her trousers were returned.

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The Surrealists were also much admired as an art movement, and their muses- Méret Oppenheim, Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning - who were also artists in their own right, inspired a more playful take on fashion. Elsa Schiaparelli designed shoe hats, lobster dresses, tear dresses and skeleton dresses in collaboration with Salvador Dali. Her perfume, “Shocking!” referred to her favourite colour, shocking pink.

In contrast the monochrome palette and simple shapes of her greatest rival, Coco Chanel, continued in popularity although the overall silhouette of the 30s were becoming more tailored and sophisticated as the flapper girls of the 1920s grew up.

The rise of ready to wear garments, combined with a greater use of easy to care for man-made fabrics such as rayon, both brought clothing prices down and made them easier to wash and care for. Women could have more, and a greater variety of clothes, than ever before.

Inspirational films: Marlene Dietrich in “Morocco”, Katherine Hepburn in “Sylvester”, “Cold Comfort Farm”, set in the 1930’s.

Skirt lengths: Mid-calf for day, and ankle to floor length for the evening. Loose, high waisted trousers were becoming popular.

Hairstyle: Bobs, waves and neat curls were still popular. Longer hair is carefully sculpted, and styles up to shoulder length were fashionable.

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Shoes: T-bars and Mary Janes with a neat kitten heel, lace ups and brogues, and tiny leather button closures.

Jewellery: Early plastics, like Bakelite, were being made a feature of, and playful themes were in vogue. Art Deco still endured in the design of pieces.

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Accessories: Hats and gloves were still de rigueur for daytime and evening, and small, box framed handbags completed the look.

Underwear: Bras and latex girdles replace heavy corsets, some with attached suspenders. Silky, loose French knickers, slips, and chemises were worn over the top.

Visit My Vintage at our vintage store based in Darwen, Lancashire for a wide range of original 1930s fashion and 1930s vintage clothing as well as our range of reproduction rockabilly clothing and rockabilly dresses. You can also shop online 24/7 at for even more original vintage fashion.

Hope to see you all soon…

Emma x


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