The Fashion of the 1930’s

During the depression, the mood changed dramatically. The liberated flapper style was replaced by a look of sophistication. This was most likely to do with the cost effectiveness of the materials used in making these fashions. The flapper style was all individually styled and quite expensive to upkeep. The 1930’s saw a style that had no class, age, and made of inexpensive material making it affordable to most. The price tag is what pushed fashion back towards a more conservative nature. The free motion style was preserved because of a need to work, however color and fabric was lost. Most women wore comfortable pants and tops that were either already owned or hand-me-downs as there were no money to buy new styles. The late 30’s were home to more fashionable looks. Rich fabric began to make an appearance again post-depression. Satin and silk dresses designed to hug the body became the formal wear for the evening. Another outcome of the depression was the use of synthetic materials that were less expensive to create, yet still fashionable in design. (Kass, 9)

The silhouette of clothing changed to become more sleek looking and more streamlined as the 1930’s reacted to the incredibly liberal fashion of the 20’s. To say there was no fashion style is a bit of an incorrect statement. Fashion styles were still available, they were however mostly cheaper copies of styles coming from Paris. Most tried to conserve fabric when making newer clothing and using pieces from the last decade to fill in the gaps made by the depression. In addition to the emphasis on spending less on materials, there was also a general decrease in the wages of the public. This is why so many styles were dependent on second-hand pieces and older clothing styles. (Pendergast, 788)

The Clothing of the 1930’s:


The couple photographed above married in the midst of the economic downfall and their clothing reveals as much. Mr. and Mrs. Morris are wearing clothing for a special occasion which shows why it looks slightly more extravagant than what one would normally find during the Depression. Even so, Henrietta’s wedding gown is in no way a new piece of clothing. The piece is most likely from an earlier generation judging from the style.


The young boy’s clothing shows the material conservation of the 1930’s. In an effort to reduce cost, less material was used and most of it of inexpensive quality. The shoes don’t quite match meaning they were most likely a piece owned earlier or handed down to him. Matching colors did not matter as much. There wasn’t enough income to be buying new full sets of clothing until after the depression.



Don’t be confused by the color. This is a tinted portrait from the 1930’s Around this time, fashion from Hollywood was one of the only trends around. Henrietta Morris is wearing a few things that were more than likely a piece from the 20’s. Long scarves and jackets were more popular in the 20’s. However with the economic downturn, many of the fashions from the decade prior carried over for no other reason than it was what one already owned.



Freda Young shows a style that also carried over from the 20’s. The flapper style of clothing was prevalent in the 20’s so many women owned a piece from that time going into the 30’s. It was not uncommon to see pieces like Freda’s dress being combined with other pieces in the 30’s. The other possibility is that the dress is new as the lengths were kept short in an effort to conserve materials and therefor lower production costs.



When the Morris’s went on their honeymoon, the stagnation in fashion really shows. Mr. Morris is wearing the exact same style of suit as was prior to the 30’s. More than likely it is a piece already owned before the Depression hit. Mrs. Morris shows how styles were once again leaning towards conservatism in some ways. Her clothing is not as flashy as someone from the 20’s. Her dress is of a single fabric in an attempt to cut costs on production. The result is the very plain clothing you see in the last photo of the set.


The Mahwah couple shown above both show how the depression caused fashion to stall a bit. The woman on the left’s dress has a colorful patterned design that is clearly a piece from the 20’s. Clothing made during the 30’s had a very plain design with single fabrics mostly. The man on the right is not wearing the three-piece suit that was prevalent in the 20’s. Instead he is wearing just the shirt and tie. The tie is also a product of the 20’s as that was when there was a move away from the plain style tie to patterned styles.



Pictured above is another picture of how styles simplified in the 30’s. Gone are the patterns of the 20’s and only simplified single fabric styles remained. the plain style and conservative nature of clothing is in stark contrast to the Roaring 20’s. The man in the picture appears to have removed the vest element of the Slack Suit and is instead only wearing the shirt and vest. The ladies have also removed some of the additional accessories and are wearing the basic elements of fashion only.