1930s Fashion: Scarlett O'Hara, Great Depression And Feminine Silhouettes

18/07/2013 18:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

1930s style was heavily influenced by the Great Depression, signified by the dropping of hemlines to the ankles, a softer feminine silhouette accentuating natural waists and an emphasis on the dramatic shoulder.

One of the key style icons of the period was the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson, who favoured outlandish designs and American couturier Mainbocher's nipped-in waists and corsetry (Simpson famously wore a blue Mainbocher gown when she wed Edward VIII in 1937).

It was during this time that film costume began to influence fashion. Joan Crawford's puff-sleeved Letty Lynton gown and Vivien Leigh's tiered crinoline dress as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind were two of the most-widely copied designs of the period.

Other key figures include Elsa Schiaparelli, credited with introducing the zipper, synthetic fabrics, wide shoulders, and bold colours, British designer Norman Hartnell, who specialised in feminine, ruffled dresses beloved by the royals and Madeleine Vionnet, who came up with the draped bias-cut look of the era. Another popular feature of 1930s style was the empire line dress and by the end of the decade, backless gowns and halter necklines were all the rage.

By the end of the 1930s, the decade's style was largely defined by wartime dressing because of clothing rations and fabric shortages; austerity dressing and utility-inspired fashions also became popular.

By Brogan Driscoll & Jen Barton


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