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What Women Wore During the Great Depression: 1930s Style

Hello Vintage Lovers!

Do you love Hollywood fashion from the 1930s? I’m going to give you a few simple tips on how to add glamour to your everyday wardrobe. During the Great Depression, many people took solace in the silver screen and the stars who graced it.

Women and men were inspired by the glamorous fashion they saw on the screen and wanted to emulate their favorite actors and actresses. Movies were an affordable escape for many people during this difficult economic downturn.

Let’s look at the steps to getting there!

Step 1

Look at images of 1930s styles in books about fashion history, in magazines from the time period, and online. Be careful, however, when perusing online, as many times images pop up from different eras, and it can be confusing. I have some terrific books that are excerpts from Sears Catalogs, and these images reflect what women and men truly were wearing during a particular period.

For example, the low waistlines of the 1920s gradually moved back up to the natural waist, and hemlines became longer. Colors often were more muted, and small prints became popular.

Vintage advertisement for women’s clothing from the Chicago Mail Order Co. featuring illustrations of women in various outfits and text describing the prices and quality.
Photo realistic image of two women wearing vintage dresses, one blue and one red, on a beige background.

Step 2

Look to the silver screen! As I mentioned above, there were many movies made during this time period that showed glamorous stars, and it helps to see these fashions in motion. Even though most people couldn’t afford designer fashions, they could buy less expensive versions or copies, make their own, or at least emulate the hairstyles and makeup.

For evening, gowns often had a bias cut, meaning the fabric was cut on the diagonal rather than on the grain. This gave the dresses a bit of stretch, and they tended to skim the body and were quite flattering to a woman’s curves. Madeleine Vionnet, a designer from the period, used this method extensively in her creations.

The emphasis for evening wear was on a woman’s back, so many dresses had low or no backs, highlighting a different part of the body than had been shown in previous decades.

Photo realistic image of a woman in a blue dress.
A peach-colored, floor-length gown with lace detailing on the neckline and sleeves.

Step 3

Check your local thrift or consignment stores (even online!) to look for more modern styles that reflect the 1930s. For example, I found a dress in a thrift store last year and it really has a look of the 30s with the sort of fluttery sleeves and the almost cape-like effect that was popular at the time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a glamorous look!

Step 4

Some women feel more comfortable starting with accessories than a whole outfit based on a certain period.  Although you can buy authentic vintage hats, there are many styles available today that can pass for a 1930s look.  For example, you can find berets quite inexpensively, and these hats were worn during the 1930s but were tilted on the head. This is something that can easily be found for a very reasonable price in most thrift stores or consignment shops. 

Also, look at images of jewelry and handbags and shoes from that time period as well, because you can often thrift items that are more modern, but really resemble those styles. Have fun with it!!

A black and white photo of a woman with a blurred face and a pearl necklace.
A black and white image of a high heeled shoe with a bow and a triangle pattern.

Have fun becoming a glamorous ’30s siren, and I’ll see you next month!!

My best to you always,


Check out my YouTube video on this topic: