1930s Fashion: The Effects of the Depression are Felt

Although 1930s fashions started out much like the flamboyant fashions of the 1920s, by the end of that year the effects of the Great Depression could be seen. More muted colors were popular in the fashions of both men and women, with the hemlines of women's skirts becoming longer once again. Shoulders became an important focus of this decade. Heavily padded jackets for both women and men became the fashion, as did padded dresses for women.

This fashion of the 1930s saw a turn back to the more conservative nature of clothing. These included more muted colors as well as a drop in hemlines for women's dresses. More flowing styles in both women's fashions as well as men's were popular during this time period.

Characteristics of Formal Wear

Men's formal wear included white suit jackets or a waist length mess jacket with a cummerbund and black pants for summer-time wear. With an emphasis still on the shoulders and the natural waistline, short jackets and dresses with a fitted midriff drew the eyes toward the shoulder. Toward the end of the decade, 1930s fashion included evening gowns for women that featured halter or other high necklines, sleeves and plunging, bare backs. Matching jackets were often included as well.

1930s Fashion

Characteristics of Business Attire

Suits that were more formal were still worn during business transactions. These differed from those that were looser as seen in more casual situations. Bold neckties with geometric patterns did provide a bit of personality to the ensemble, however. Women wore dresses with matching jackets. Hemlines began to fall to below the knee, particularly during the last half of the decade.

Casual Wear

Men's suits featuring heavily padded shoulders as well as generously cut jackets signaled a softer and more flexible fashion for the 1930s. Fuller sleeves and tapered pants made the suits flattering for men, rather than stiff and rigid. Flowing trousers with long coats, often dubbed zoot suits, were popular as casual wear for men.

Major Influences on 1930s Fashion

Musicians continued to be major influences on 1930s fashion. They made the exaggerated shoulder pads and long flowing trousers of the day even more popular as they wore their zoot suits. Long coats with high waists and pegged, wide legged trousers were a staple of their clothing.

Movies played a heavy influence on fashions of the 1930s. Movies such as "Gone With the Wind," influenced the popularity of leg o' mutton sleeves and other puffed sleeves on dresses. Full skirts were brought back into fashion by Scarlet O'Hara's famous barbecue dress. The Duchesses of Windsor helped to bring back the long flowing wedding dress after she wore this type for her 1937 wedding to Edward VIII, Prince of Wales. When Queen Elizabeth visited the New York World's Fair in 1939, she wore a short sleeved dress with long gloves. A dramatic hat completed her look.

The Great Depression made a major impact on the fashions of the 1930s as colors became more muted and the styles became more conservative once again. People also began to cut back on their purchases of new clothing as money became scarcer.

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