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How to Recreate Decades of Fashion: 1930s

When we hear “1930s”, we think of the stock market crash, the Great Depression, the start of World War II, and other really traumatic things. People were forced to give up the lavish lifestyle of the 1920s for a more frugal one in the '30s.

By 1933, the very loose, drop-waist dress and slightly “boyish” look of the 1920s completely disappeared. This androgynous style was replaced with a much more modest and form-fitting silhouette with an accentuated natural waistline, fitted hips, longer mid-calf or floor length hemline, high neckline, and wide shoulders.  

Ideally, women wanted to be tall and slender with a very small waist and narrow hips, but since many women were not blessed with such traits (as we all are human and beautifully different), shoulders were exaggerated with puff sleeves, shoulder pads, full collars, and “caplet,” “butterfly,” or ruffled cap sleeves, to make waists and hips appear smaller in comparison. Most sale ads and catalogs featured artistically drawn women who were three times as tall and thin as any real woman could be (maybe this is the look the original Barbies were based on??). 

As you can tell, the ideal 1930s look was anything but realistic.

“Ready-to-wear” factory-made garments became popular, because clothing could be mass produced for far less than made-to-order custom garments. During this era, zippers became a staple in finishing a garment (because they cost less than buttons!), and less expensive fabrics became more widely used. In fact, nubby, textured, and rough fabrics became a trend (yuck!).

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between the way thirties fashion was created, and the way it is created today. But when copying thirties attire, you don’t have to be unrealistically uncomfortable. Women in the thirties wanted to be fashionable and so will you!



The most casually a woman dressed was at home when she was just with her family or friends. House dresses, while basic and usually made of practical durable cotton, followed the trends in cut and silhouette and often displayed a variety of bright bold prints. Most women still preferred to sew their own clothing or upcycle existing dresses into newer frocks. The house dress was the ideal dress for a woman to experiment with since no one but family saw her in it.


1. The Dress

This part is super easy—all you have to do is pick a simple shirtdress. This one is from ASOS, but they sell them at Forever 21 and Gap for not a lot of money. You can pick a variety of patterns and/or colors and a number of silhouettes! You don’t have to go for the 100% exact style of the thirties because this is 2016, so you have a lot of freedom!


2. The Shoes

Many types of shoes were available during the thirties, but classic pumps, sling-back heels, and peep toes were among the most popular thirties shoes. Go for these cute little peep toe pumps from ModCloth, or something similar, to give your look that extra thirties oomph!


3. The Finishing Touches

In the thirties, short gloves during the day and long gloves in the evening were very popular, even in the summertime. Women matched their gloves to their purses and shoes, so if you don’t want to wear gloves you can just match your accessories.

To complete the look, go for some bouncy glossy curls (you can follow this tutorial), red or wine colored lips, and lots of mascara (think T-Swift’s great-grandmother but when she was young).



Okay, so even though the thirties were the beginning of those classic Hollywood starlets, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t have any red carpet events coming up (sorry, ladies). However, if you want to indulge, here are some sweet options for going out. 


1. The Dress

For this puppy we’re going to head over to my other favorite website, Unique Vintage! Like ModCloth, they specialize in era-specific clothing and accessories (I got a prom dress and an adorable bathing suit from there). They also have really great prices. Check out this adorable thirties-esque number!



2. The Shoes

Sandals were popularized in the thirties, especially for evening wear! Surprising, right? So, when you go out, stay comfy and chic with these sassy sandals.


3. The Finishing Touches

Evening gloves are a must-have for this outfit! Pair them with these fan-cy earrings (haha, get it?), and the same hair and makeup from earlier (or a classic updo), and voila!

And there you have it, collegiettes! For a day out on the town or a fancy-shmancy event, try these classic thirties vibes, and you’re sure to have a blast!


If you missed last week's article on the 1920s, click here!


Zoe is a Senior at Boston University in the College of Communication, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in English and Psychology, and is the Campus Correspondent for her chapter. Originally from the Washington DC area, Zoe loves going to museums, concerts, and working at Baby Gap. In her free time, Zoe can be found crafting, watching Netflix, and scoping out the latest trends. Always catch her yelling enthusiastically about something, or making really corny jokes.
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