Great innovations in fashion were seen during the Depression despite the economic hardships of the time. The abbreviated, linear forms of the 1920s quickly gave way to sinuous shapes and longer hemlines. Waistlines returned to the natural position, while remaining relaxed in fit. Designers experimented with new cuts and new materials. For evening, the bias cut gown was favored (as created by Madeleine Vionnet) in silk velvet or silk satin. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon were in common use for everyday garments.
After 1935, zippers were employed as a more efficient alternative to labor-intensive hook-and-eye closures. Indeed, in the hands of prestigious houses such as Schiaparelli they became design elements. Costume jewelry, popularized by Chanel’s signature faux pearl strands, became an accessory staple. By 1938, small shoulder pads had become fashionable, heralding the shoulder emphasis of the 1940s. This, in spite of the Depression, was another grand era for Haute Couture. Lanvin, Molyneux, Mainbocher, Patou and Maggy Rouff all had active fashion houses as did Vionnet, Chanel and Schiaparelli.
The movies influenced how women dressed and what they thought about fashion.
It was not uncommon for designers such as Gilbert Adrian and Irene to make their names in Hollywood’s film industry. Women clamoured to look like their screen idols. This desire prompted many Hollywood couturiers to produce clothing for the mass market via department stores or their own collections. The Hollywood phenomenon also spread to Europe. Exemplified by the white satin bias cut dresses as worn by Jean Harlow, the Hollywood look featured dramatic lines that played best to camera. The full length garden party dress with picture hat, the striking wool suit with portrait fur collar, the grand negligee – these were all part of the Hollywood in the 1930s look as well.
Written by The Vintage Fashion Guild