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Latest Articles - Luxury

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Crystal Glass Tableware – A Song of Crystal

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1930-s Fashion

Sunday, 12 December 2010

1930-s fashionFirst decades of the 20-th century were densely packed with fateful events that shaped the course of history: World War I, the Socialist Revolution in Russia and the subsequent deposition of the Romanovs and the formation of the Soviet Union, and the Great Depression. When people felt the negative impact of the Great Depression, designers stopped experimenting because of the lessened demand for clothes.

Trends in women fashion though emphasized a romantic, womanly silhouette. The waist was brought back to its proper position, with hemlines being dropped. The female body was modified to a more contemporary tone, while having athletic bodies became a trend. The popularity of having slim and toned down bodies resulted into couturiers to manufacture what is now known as the sportswear. While the concept of ready-to-wear was unknown then, boutiques were already making clothes known as being for sport.

Until the 1930s, wealthy women had not really needed to wear practical day clothes. Although styles had been designated day styles if they were impractical it had not really mattered as long as maids took care of chores. Now women had more productive and busier lives and simpler pared down clothes gave a freedom of movement women relished in daily life. More luxurious gowns were kept for evening. New fabrics like metallic lame were very popular at night and were made to shimmer even more richly by adding plastic sequins and glass beads.

Glamour, conservativeness and femininity were the defining words of 1930s female fashions. Whereas a youth culture had sprung up and taken firm hold throughout the fashion world during the roaring 1920s, by 1930 the Great Depression had settled in and everyone wanted adults in charge. Thus, women's clothes went from loose tops and dresses that ended at the knees to form-fitting garments that fell to the mid-calf for day wear and to the floor for evening gowns. A conservative, traditional look was desired by both men and women.

This is not to say that all youthfulness was stripped from women's clothing. Some fashions of the 1930s woman were almost oppressively girlish, with giant ruffles and bows at the neck and shoulders. Peter Pan collars were seen on a lot of day wear, even for adult women. And although the hard times demanded a lot of practicality, there were still many fussy, absurd hats and winter coats that didn't fasten up the front. On the other side, suits and even trousers were becoming more popular as more women entered the workforce and everyone had less time for frivolity.

Through the mid-1930s, the natural waistline was often accompanied by emphasis on an 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 '30s, emphasis was moving to the back, with halter necklines and high-necked but backless evening gowns with sleeves. Evening dresses with matching jackets were worn to the theatre and elegant restaurants. Skirts remained 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 in 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.

Throughout the 1930s, a second influence vied with the Paris couturiers as a wellspring for new fashion ideas: Hollywood and American cinema.  The 1890s leg-o-mutton sleeves designed by Walter Plunkett for Irene Dunne in 1931's Cimarron helped to launch the broad-shouldered look. Movie costumes were covered not only in film fan magazines, but in influential fashion magazines such as Women's Wear Daily, Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue.

Adrian's puff-sleeved gown for Joan Crawford Letty Lynton was copied by Macy's in 1932 and sold over 500,000 copies nationwide. The most influential film of all was 1939's Gone with the Wind. Plunkett's ‘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.

In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli rose to prominence. She was known for her innovative designs while not shattering the fundamentals of fashion. She mixed with the now famous cubist and surrealist artists Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Fabric and accessories were often designed for her by Dali, Jean Cocteau and Christian Berard.  Schiaparelli became popular with her black knitted white bow. Beyond the little black dress which she frequently designed, she would accessorize with humor and designed funky hats made to appear as mutton chops or ice cream cones. Her eccentricity was much loved and her clothes were revolutionary at the time.

She designed a wide shouldered masculine suit that Marlene Dietrich wore and which was copied throughout Hollywood. She launched shoulder pads in man tailored severe suits long before power dressing of the 80s. It was her late 1930s tailored suit designs which were thought the most suitable clothing to embrace in the war years rather than the wasp waist bouffant dresses that were shown just before the war started. Schiaparelli and Chanel were great rivals who both vied for top designer fame and competed hotly against each other over their perfumes. Schiaparelli's Shocking perfume in an hour glass bottle designed on Mae West's figure was fiercely competitive against Chanel's perfume Chanel No. 5.

Hats were worn for most occasions, almost always tipped to one side and decorated with bits of net veiling, feathers, ribbons, or brooches. Pill boxes became popular along with brimmed hats. Towards the end of the decade, turbans emerged. Fashionable hats range from the pillbox toque, trimmed turban, and Basque beret.

Gloves were enormously important in this period. Women's gloves usually matched their shoes and handbags. Evening gowns were accompanied by elbow length gloves, and day costumes were worn with short or opera-length gloves of fabric or leather.

At that same designers began to adjust the mood of their collections to more military inspired square shouldered clothing teamed with low heels as if sensing a need for more functional wear. By the time war arrived in 1939, European designers had shown simple clothes, trousers and sweaters and classic shirt waisters designed to stay in fashion. This was a pivotal time for the fashion industry and lessons learnt developing methods of mass producing uniforms carried over into the ready to wear industry. In the future it enabled manufacturers to produce quality goods speedily, moderately priced, and within acceptable profit margins.

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