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1930s Fashion Styles

1930s Sewing Patterns Styles

The effects of the Great Depression in the west began to affect the public, and a more conservative approach to fashion displaced that of the 1920s. For women, skirts became longer and the waist-line was returned up to its normal position. Other aspects of fashion from the 1920s took longer to phase out. Cloche hats remained popular until about 1933 while short hair remained popular for many women until late in the 1930s and even in the early 1940s. The onset of World War II greatly affected the fashion of how women dressed during the 1940s era.

Because of the economic impact of the Great Depression, designers were forced to reduce prices for clothing in order to keep their business afloat, especially those working in couture houses. Designers were also forced to use cheaper fabric and materials, and dress patterns also grew in popularity as many women knew how to sew. Hence, clothing was made more accessible, and there was also a continuation of mass production, which was rising in popularity since the 1920s. The 1930s allowed women from all classes and socio backgrounds to be fashionable, regardless of wealth. With prices slashes on types of fabrics utilized for designing, new inventions such as the zip made garments quicker and cheaper to make. This was also influenced by the rise in women entering the workforce alongside the rise of the business girl, as they still were able to afford to dress well and stay in style. Daywear also had to be functional, but it never lost its touch of elegance or femininity, as the dresses would still naturally highlight the female or womanly shape with cinched waistlines, skirts fitted to the hip and fullness added to the hem with flared gores or pleats. Frilled rayon blouses also went with the cinched waist.

Because clothes were rationed and fabric was scarcer, the hem lines of dresses rose to knee length. The main sort of dress in the 1940s included features such as an hour glass shape figure, broad shoulders, nipped in high waist tops and A line skirts that came down to just at the knee. Many different celebrities who embraced this type of style such as Joan CrawfordGinger RogersBarbara Stanwyck, and Ava Gardner. Even though 1930s dress patterns were influenced by the war, 1930s evening dress patterns remained glamorous. Women's undergarments became the soul of fashion in the 1940s because it maintained the critical hourglass shape with smooth lines. Clothes became utilitarian. Pants or trousers were considered a menswear item only until the 1940s. Women working in factories first wore men's pants but over time, 1940s women's pants pattern appeared, making use of fabrics such as cotton, denim, or wool. Coats were long and down to the knee for warmth. Major fashion magazines at the time including Vogue continued to cater to the fashionable and wealthy women of the 1930s to continue reporting and reflecting the most popular trends in that time period, despite the impact the economic crash had on them. Those women further down the socio-economic ladder could get the same look by making garments using the latest fashionable vintage sewing patterns 1930s.

Woman wearing vintage bias cut dress

Many American and European moviegoers were fascinated by and got interested in overall fashion including clothes and hairstyles of movie stars which led to various fashion trends. Different styles such as bias-cut (see Fig. 1), satin, Jean Harlow-style evening dresses and the casual look of Katharine Hepburn also became famous and designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli (who is credited with "changing the outline of fashion from soft to hard, from vague to definite) and Lucien Lelong acknowledged the impact of film costumes on their work. Other stars who influenced this era fashion included stars such as Bette Davis, Greta Young, Carole Lombard and Adrian's puff-sleeved gown for Joan Crawford Letty Lynton was copied by Macy's in 1932 and sold over 500,000 copies nationwide . As well as Schiaparelli and Lelong other top designers of this era included Madame Vionnet and Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli who designing a more elegant and woman about town look. 1930s fashion sewing patterns showcased the best known invention of this period, the bias cut. This involved cutting the fabric at a 45 degree angle instead of along the straight grain and was introduced by Vionnet. This method allowed the fabric to hug the body naturally by giving horizontal stretch and thus emphasises a woman’s natural shape. The result was draped, sinuous and fluid evening dresses that created the flirtatious and sensuous look which epitomises for many, the iconic 1930s silhouette. Combine the bias cut with the trend for backless and we are onto something quite daring and risqué, even by today’s standards.

One of the most stylistically influential films of the 1930s was 1939's Gone with the Wind. The dresses in the movie were designed with simplified adornments. The film inspired the Princess Ballgown, a Victorian style dress reduced to full A line skirts with petticoats underneath for fullness.[6] It was the most popular style for teens going to prom.[6] Walter Plunkett's design of the "barbecue dress" for Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara was the most widely copied dress after the Duchess of Windsor's wedding costume, and Vogue credited the "Scarlett O'Hara" look with bringing full skirts worn over crinolines back into wedding fashion after a decade of sleek, figure-hugging styles.1930s sewing patterns of the period also reflected the natural waistline, this was emphasised by the empire line. Short bolero jackets, capelets, and dresses cut with fitted midriffs or seams below the bust increased the focus on breadth at the shoulder. By the late 1930s, emphasis was moving to the back, with halter necklines and high-necked but backless evening gowns with sleeves. 1930s gown pattern showcased evening dresses with matching jackets and were worn to the theatre, nightclubs, and elegant restaurants.

The shirtwaist dress, an all-purpose garment, also emerged during the 1930s. The shirtwaist dress was worn for all occasions, besides those that were extremely formal, and were modest in design. The dress could either have long or short sleeves, a modest neckline and skirt that fell below the knee. The bust was rounded but not particularly emphasized and the waistline was often belted in its normal position. Pockets were both functional and used for decoration and were accompanied by buttons down the front, around the sides or up the back of the dress. These dresses often were accompanied by coordination long coats, which were made out of contrasting fabric but lined with the dress fabric.

1930s skirt patterns continued to remain at mid-calf length for day, but the end of the 1930s Paris designers were showing fuller skirts reaching just below the knee; this practical length (without the wasteful fullness) would remain in style for day dresses through the war years. Other notable fashion trends you see in 1930s sewing patterns of the this period include the introduction of the ensemble (matching dresses or skirts and coats) and the handkerchief skirt, which had many panels, insets, pleats or gathers. The clutch coat was fashionable in this period as well; it had to be held shut as there was no fastening.

Wrap coats with overlapping panels and a tie belt lost popularity in the early 1930s but again became fashionable in the latter years of the period. Other styles popular in the era were the Swing coat, the Swagger coat – with the inverted pleat back gave it plenty of volume and “swing” while the front lacked buttons or belts. The jacket was often constructed in a boxy fashion and had wide lapels, wide shoulders and numerous pockets. The dress and coat combination created an overall effect of sensibility, modesty and girl next door lifestyle that contrasted the very popular, second-skin like style of the bias-cut evening gown.

Woman wearing gown made from a vintage sewing pattern

Lounge-wear in the 1930s was luxurious and elegant as it was comfortable. 1930s fashion sewing patterns included pajamas, robes (see Fig. 2 above) and housecoat designs. The relatively new lounging pajamas considered to be very versatile, appropriate for any time of day, and for many at-home activities: from relaxing, to informal dinners, to studying for college exams. While cuts were mostly conservative and feminine, colors and prints ranged from delicate to exotic. Pajamas continued to be worn throughout the 1930s, though robes were also popular for lounging in – especially for after a bath.

Blouses from the early part of the decade continued to popularize the use of separates, possibly for office wear, possibly because a blouse is easier to launder in a wash-basin than a dress,  and probably because a blouse takes less fabric. The ability to get several looks from the same two or three blouses and one or two skirts might be another attraction in the scarce-money days of the 1930’s. 1930s fashion sewing patterns embraced the ‘bell hop’ shirt as well as Bolero and often shown paired with button front beach pajamas. Trousers were not widely worn women but by the mid 1930’s it was acceptable for them to be worn for sportswear.  In fact, studios used to try to keep Kathryn Hepburn from wearing them between sets in Hollywood, because the photographers would snap her over the studio gates and it was still “shocking”.  1930s patterns started to show a ladylike feminine curve coming back in style as they start to move away from the boyish gamine figure of the 1920's. Round and pointier bust shapes along with natural waist curves are desired. A look of almost no undergarments has to come into play as glamour wear is all about the bias cut dresses in the slinkiest of satins. Undergarments are starting to be sold more and more in a retail setting. Just like in the 1920's silk and rayon chemises are quite popular. Trimmed with lace and feminine details. During this period modern idea of separates start to take shape then as well. The word brassiere is shortened to bra. Bras are convertible with low back options and start to come in A, B, C, or D cup sizes.

Woman wearing 1930s beach cover up

1930s beachwear patterns (including cover-ups in Fig 3 above) reflect the fact that necklines plunged at the back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away and tightened. With the development of new clothing materials, particularly latex and nylon, through the 1930s swimsuits gradually began hugging the body, with shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning. In 1932 French designer Madeleine Vionnet offered an exposed midriff in an evening gown. The Busby Berkeley film Footlight Parade of 1932 showcases aquachoreography that featured bikinis. Dorothy Lamour's The Hurricane (1937) also showed two-piece bathing suits. In 1935 American designer Claire McCardell cut out the side panels of a maillot-style bathing suit, the bikini's forerunner. The 1938 invention of the Telescopic Water suit in shirred elastic cotton ushered into the end the era of wool. Cotton sun-tops, printed with palm trees, and silk or rayon pyjamas, usually with a blouse top, also became popular by 1939.

References: Wikipedia