Fashion On Film: How 1930s Style Shaped Entertainment

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Welcome to another edition of Fashion on Film.

To introduce this series, we started covering the Roaring Twenties, and now we are making our way to the next decade, looking at the fashion of the 1930s.

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The 30s were an interesting time in the world. The extravagance of the 1920s was gone as the world entered into The Great Depression (which pretty much lasted the entirety of the decade), and now people were looking for entertainment in a more simplistic way.

In fact, simplicity was the theme of the entire 1930s across all categories, including film as scaling back was necessary for survival. The days of glamorous suits, dresses, and parties were long gone, and what followed was a period of adjustment. Let’s first take a look at the history of 1930s fashion.

1930s Fashion History

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The 1930s saw the evolution of fashion becoming more feminine for women and complimentary to their bodies. Dresses and skirts were now slowly being tapered to enhance women’s curvy features with subtle yet powerful lines, and the introduction of the bias cut. What is the bias cut you might ask? The bias cut was introduced by Parisian fashion designer Madeleine Vionette, and is basically the technique of cutting fabric diagonally as opposed to vertically to enhance a woman’s natural lines. 

It’s important to note, however, that The Great Depression didn’t put a pause on all things fun and entertainment. People were still going out, and evening dresses were still very much a thing. It’s just that it wasn’t on the level of the 1920s where events were sometimes happening every night. And of course, the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and its stars were continuing to rise, which we’ll get into a little more later. 

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As for the men, the 1930s were the decade where suits began to progress. More and more men were wearing suits, and pairing them with the fedoras that became ever so popular the previous decades. The 30s were also the era where we started to see men accessorize more.

You know those octagon frames that John Lennon used to sport in the 1970s? Those actually became popularized in the 1930s. The fellas were just as smooth and suave as what they were in the 1920s. Now let’s take a look at the history of 1930s films.

1930s Film History

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The 1930s are when we began to see the true emergence of Hollywood superstars. The “It Girls and Boys” so to speak. Stars like Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford were the glamorous gals of Hollywood, and then you had the swooners like Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Henry Fonda that the girls gushed over. The 1930s would also mark the film debut of a young Katharine Hepburn after much success in the world of theater.

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We would also see the “gangster” and horror themes expanded upon in films like Scarface and Dracula. The biggest thing to remember about 1930s films is that it provided a way for people to take their minds off the catastrophic state the world around them was in.

Very few (if any) films were actually made about The Great Depression during the 1930s, because there were already constant reminders of that 24/7. While things may have been crappy, for two hours you would get the chance to escape, and that was the important thing.

1930s Films To Get You Started

Like the 1920s article, we are giving you a short list of 1930s films to get you started. Here are some to get the ball rolling.

1. Camille (1936)


2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)


3. A Star Is Born (1937)


4. Laughing Sinners (1931)


5. Scarface (1932)


6. Dracula (1931)


7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


There’s plenty more films from the 1930s to check out. In the meantime, be sure to keep on the lookout for the 1940s edition of “Fashion On Film.”

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