Chicago History Museum’s New Exhibit Proves ‘30s and ‘40s Hollywood Fashion Is In

The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., is displaying Hollywood-inspired fashion in its new exhibit “Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and ‘40s.” The exhibit’s garments come from New York, Paris, Hollywood and our very own, Chicago.

The ‘30s and ‘40s designs represent what the decades were all about: being inspired by Hollywood movies. The fashion world was suddenly obsessed with the movies. Hollywood’s effect on mainstream fashion was tremendous and delightfully clear, as is seen within the exhibit.

The garments are glamorous, as anyone might imagine. One noted aspect about the exhibit is how modern the styles and designs seem to be compared to today’s fashion. Many have even commented saying they would wear the pieces today; I couldn’t agree more, honestly.

Courtesy Eden Bunna.

One of my favorite gowns was this blush pink piece. According to the note placed with the dress, it used to be blue—age has only been good to her, in my opinion. Placed on the wrong silhouette, the ruffled sleeves might have gone full ‘80s, but paired with the thin ribbon belt, the two accent the color exceptionally. I would wear this gown for graduation. This black ball gown on the right was just the right amount of drama to be a show-stopper. Plus, black is always a win.

Courtesy Eden Bunna

The exhibit had a lovely selection of purses and clutches. Mini purses. Did I mention I love mini purses? The green piece, made in 1935, made me want to only wear this shade of green for the rest of my life.

Courtesy Eden Bunna.

The purse is made entirely of beads and silk. The looped rope-like straps combined with the simple shape of the bag are met kindly with the scalloped design down the center. Everything about it reminds me of why I am alive—   to buy more purses.

Courtesy Eden Bunna.

These three gowns displayed in the exhibit made me swoon with nostalgia for a time in which I hadn’t t even existed. On the left, the gold evening gown comes from Bergdorf Goodman in 1937 and is made of silk and glass (I also learned this must have been a common material used for expensive clothing because there was more than one made with it). I imagine Blair Waldorf would wear this gem if she were living during those inspired years.

The center gown—made of rayon and mink fur—was designed in ‘35 and came from Best & Co. on Fifth Avenue in New York. This artificial silk, rayon, became a staple of the ‘30s because it was much less expensive than silk but draped the same and looked the part. The fur accents were another staple of the early ‘30s. And if it were faux fur, I’m sure I would wear it right off the mannequin!

The feathered gown on the right is made of silk and ostrich feathers and was originally white. It was designed in 1941. Time has been kind to the gown as well. The shade of pink fits perfectly into today’s trends. With few alterations to the top half, I could see this being worn on the red carpet to the Met Gala.

Courtesy Eden Bunna.

Salvatore Ferragamo is famously known as the Italian shoe designer who worked with many Hollywood stars in the ‘20s. Being able to see some of his own original work displayed at the exhibit is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The shoes themselves are so delicate, intricate, detailed—truly designed to grace only the best Hollywood stars. The pair of wedges is actually made of straw and leather. I can’t even imagine the work that had gone into crafting them.

If you have the chance to visit this exhibit, you must go! Emphasis on must! Any exhibit with a display focused on fashion should be top priority, obviously. The ‘30s and ‘40s were a beautiful time. Attention is deserved. The exhibit will be at the museum until January 2020. Plus, it’s only $15 for Chicago students—a deal I could never pass up. Go, and take inspiration, like Blair Waldorf would have done. Be transformed into your own elegant Grace Kelly.