Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Decades: Finds from the 1930s

Hey there!  I'm just about bursting with excitement to show you the beautiful 1930s dresses I've gathered together for this post.  This decade is one of my absolute favorites in fashion: long, slim lines combined with dramatic details?  Yes, please.  Beginning with longer, more feminine silhouettes after the androgynous 1920s, the 1930s remains, in my opinion, one of the most flattering and elegant periods in fashion history.  It introduced simple, smart outfits to reflect the somber tone of the Great Depression, and yet encompasses the glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Vionnet's groundbreaking use of the bias cut, and runs the design gamut from easy-to-wear dresses to outlandish gowns.

So without further ado, the seven (count 'em, seven!) flowing, beaded, print-ed, and/or clinging pieces I've chosen to reflect the variety of the 1930s.

(Follow the "read more" break below!)

This office-ready checkered number is a terrific example of the quintessential '30s silhouette.  Hemlines dropped after the 1920s, and more figure-flattering lines came back in vogue.

The wide-set collar lies flat against the dress, which, combined with the strong vertical lines of the orange string tie, make for a really great neckline for someone with a shorter neck, like myself.  The O-shaped belt buckle contrasts nicely against the square print fabric, and I love the slight flares at the hem and the wrist.

Pleat detail at the front for added movement

From what I can tell, this black floral chiffon piece shows the transition from 1920s to 1930s fashion.  Though the front gather detail is present in late 1920s dresses (like the orange piece from my last post), this one sits a little higher, at the natural waist.  (Or it would, if I were the right size for it!)

Similarly, I think this gorgeous beaded blue number demonstrates some of the lessons designers may have learned from the '20s-- namely, that drop waists are really hard to pull off.

The beads create the illusion of a lower waistline, but the fabric cinches in wonderfully at the natural waist.  I adore the shape this dress creates, thanks to the slightly padded shoulders that balance out the bead detailing, and the long line created by the length.

Seriously. The '30s are where it's at.
The beautiful print and great swing of this dress and duster set made it absolutely agonizing to take off.  I love this shape.  It's in terrific condition-- so terrific, it's been used as a costume more than once.

This flower print is to die for, and the tags, as well as the quick-rigging snaps, are evidence of its use as a costume.
This is the cutest thing I've worn in a long time.
Please don't make me take this off!
Now this set, I'm less thrilled with.  I think it's due to the combination of the bigger shoulders and the two-toned print, but this dress actually gave me much more of a '90s grunge vibe.  '30s tea dresses made a comeback around that time, and this piece seems like the kind of thing a '90s alt-rocker might have worn.

I like the basic structure of the dress, though, and I'll admit, I like it more in photographs than in person.

The cut of this slinky, colorful v-neck dress shows how truly wonderful the 1930s were, in my opinion, for a girl with a less-than-hourglass figure.  Thanks to the cut, the fabric clings to the body, and really flatters a more athletic figure. Don't get me wrong-- this would be killer on just about any shape, any body.  But as a woman with what's rather dishearteningly referred to as a "boy shape," I really, really love anything that can play up what curves I do have.

I've saved the most outlandish for last.  This dress is bonkers, and I love every inch of it.

I'm not even sure how to describe this chiffon dress, but to me, it looks like something out of a Joan Crawford film.  

The velvet bows, the bright floral print, the bust gathers, the giant sleeves-- it's just pure fun.

I don't want to say too much here, but-- you just might catch this dress in a future post.  (!)  Until then, though, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the glam 1930s.  I've loved getting a chance to wear these dresses, and to try out the '30s silhouette.  I've definitely gotten some ideas for future sewing projects!

Next up: the 1940s!



  1. These are gorgeous and very inspiring! The first one is my absolute favourite.

    1. Thanks so much, I'd hoped they'd be fun to look at-- I think the 1930s gets overshadowed a little, so I'm really happy to have found so many great pieces!

  2. These are beautiful, and the last one is a whole lot of look!

    1. Hahah, that may be the best way to describe that dress! I've got some ideas for how to make it work, I think, but it'll be a challenge for sure!

  3. I admit I've never taken much notice of '30s fashions before, mostly because I'm too bedazzled by the '20s, but you've definitely sparked my interest with this! I really love the first dress with it's geometric shapes, and the shape of the blue beaded dress is lovely! I shall look forward to seeing how you style the last dress, it really is quite charming.

    1. Hey, thanks for your comment! I totally get skipping over the '30s-- I was much more into the '20s for a while, too, but I started taking more notice of the '30s once I got over the longer hemlines and realized how flattering the styles were. I'm so glad you found the dresses interesting! And yeah-- I've got some plans for the fall with that last one!

  4. beautiful pieces again ... i swoon over every single piece!!! i always prefered 30s fashion to the 20s. the low waists of the 20s aren't very flattering if you are curvy ... but the designers of the 30s seemed to rediscover the feminitity ...

    hopefully these dresses don't get woen on stage anymore?! i rembember acters not being very carful with their costumes on stage ...

    1. I totally agree! A couple of these are retired-- some are still in sturdy condition, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if they make a stage appearance again. It's definitely one of the more challenging aspects of wardrobe-- realizing these pieces aren't static.

  5. I'm not sure if my first comment went through... :/ I usually see it after I publish it. Anyhow, I think I said I'm freaking out. And don't mind me. But I've always had a soft spot for the 30s, but never wear it, as the pieces are rare, as are the patterns. But the 30s were such an interesting period of transition, from the 20s shapelessness to the 40s and 50s fitted, so the dresses are chic but comfy it appears!

    The blue is my favorite! And I totally get what you mean about that one appearing 90s!


    1. I think something weird's going on/went on with Blogger, so I'm glad you commented again! I'm with you on the freaking out; I don't know that I'd ever gotten to actually wear a 1930s dress before this shoot. The transition aspect is probably what I like about it so much! And I'm glad I'm not the only one, re: the '30s/'90s dress-- it felt *really* weird to wear a vintage dress that looked like it belonged within my own lifetime.

  6. An old post I know, but I remember a librarian in the 60's wearing that flower print dress, although she was in her 60's, so I suspect she bought it new. The v-neck dress is perfect for your bottom my dear, although it needs some bling down the front. Maybe some hippie beads from the late 60's...

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