might be tempted to think that the financial deprivations
suffered by most people during the Depression would have
brought fashion to a halt, but it continued, although
the catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., from which this
anthology has been assembled, reflected the economic tumble.
fall 1929, advertising copy had been light and breezy:
"The newest styles, the most recent designs, and
the very latest in colorings and finishes..." (A
change in buying patterns in the mid-twenties had, however,
necessitated an approach, emphasizing low price and good
value, that had not been prominent at the beginning of
the decade.) In the spring 1930 catalog, the import of
what had happened had not yet been fully realized: A full
page of electrical gadgets designed "to drive drudgery
from your home" seems to assume continued prosperity.
In the fall 1930 catalog, reality
had made its mark: "Thrift is the spirit of today.
Reckless spending is a thing of the past." Finally,
in the fall 1932 catalog: "These are not ordinary
times...Of greatest importance today are the costs of
the necessities of life... We realize that economy dictates
that women must sew more this
year... Repairing, rather than replacing, will be the
order in many
families... We recognize the struggle that is taking place
everywhere to make ends meet." Washfast
"Hooverettes" (house dresses) made sure
Mom would still look fashionable while taking care of
the brood and "Many-Way
Dresses" allowed economical fashionistas to simply
"change accessories--have a different dress for every
day of the week!"
the late twenties, hemlines began to fall and the waistline, which
had dropped to the hips, was returning to its natural position.
In the early thirties, “the
trend [was] toward femininity”: there was a move away
from the boyish flapper to a softer, more feminine form. The adult
female figure returned to fashion. The hemline dropped very
low, then was lifted slightly and remained at that position until
the end of the decade, when
skirts shortened. Long dresses for eveningwear replaced the flamboyant
short beaded gowns that had characterized the twenties. In France,
by using material cut on the bias, was creating beautiful figure-molding
gowns. However, because bias construction, or using fabric on
the cross, was expensive and called for great skill in handling,
its interpretation was limited and relegated mainly to skirts
and minor details. For this new silhouette, foundation garments
and underclothes were shaped to conform
to the body.
the stress on natural form, men's
suits also began to curve in at the waist. The wide
trousers that had been so popular in the twenties continued
to be worn in sporty or collegiate
styles, reaching a 22-inch width, but by the late thirties,
although trousers were still of a generous cut, the width was
was also favored, especially in business, where masculine dress
was equated with seriousness of intent. The inclusion of slacks
or "gob outfits,"
as they were called, anticipated the oncoming popularity of long
pants for women. Shorts were listed, but only for little girls.
Pumps became fashionable again and were available with different
heels, including four-inch spike heels. The men's section added
tuxedos to the selection of suits. Trimmings and surface decorations
in most clothes began to fall away as the lure of a totally different
look came on the horizon.
cloche hats, another trademark of the twenties, disappeared,
their place being taken by berets, pillboxes and brimmed
hats, frequently worn at a jaunty angle. Turbans later gained
movies provided one of the major escapes from the harsh
realities of the Depression, so it was natural that the
sales gimmick of marketing accessories (and some dresses)
endorsed by such stars as Loretta Young, Claudette Colbert
and Fay Wray should be expanded from pre-Depression days.
style clothing and accessories abounded. Even children's
clothing found its own star--Shirley
the spring 1930 catalog women's
overalls were first introduced--a harbinger of Rosie
the Riveter, the image that was to dominate the first half
of the next decade. By 1939, women's Indestructo Work Clothes
helped women "get
down to business."
sportswear developed further. Although most apparel had
become more feminine, in sportswear masculine
forms continued to be adapted: middy slacks, sportsuits,
leather jackets. The tailored
the end of the 1920s came the end of the reign of the preadolescent
ideal. The Depression and changing times were forging new fashions.
That fashions did change, and that people, whatever their circumstances,
did try their best to follow them, is a potent argument for the
view of fashion as a psychological and sociological necessity.
How else can one justify a change in style that called for dresses
made of more cloth than prior to the Depression?
Blum, Stella. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties As Pictured
in Sears and Other Catalogs.