“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”

— Yves Saint-Laurent



‘I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.’

— Alexander McQueen



The beginning of the 1930’s marked the beginning of The Great Depression. The Great Depression was a critical international economic depression. Although the beginning of the Great Depression changed in different countries, but in most nations it began in 1930 and lasted throughout the entire 1930’s and eventually passed during the middle of the 1940s. It was the longest, most widespread and deepest depression of the 20th century.




There was also a huge class difference that had opened up between the rich and the poor, the differences being vast. There was a major class conflict- although the richest people in America lost a lot of money when the stock market plummeted during the depression, they still owned a lot of money and did not need to seek employment when the poor did. They could afford to keep servants, they could continue to run two houses both in London and a country house, they could still afford to travel, shop in designer boutiques and continued to be well educated.





However, at the other end of social class, there were poor families of 8 or more that would live in 2 or 3 rooms with no running water, or no inside toilet. They were more than often unemployed and seeked jobs urgently. 10,000 people lost their jobs and people couldn’t afford food.

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The fashion concept of this point in time contrasted vastly. Fashion portrayed an elegant and sophisticated image as a reaction against the wild daring youthful fashion of the twenties. People often tried harder to appear well dressed and respectable.



The 30’s was a much quieter era, and contrasted with the roaring twenties. Due to the depression many people couldn’t afford to take part in as many lie surly activities and had a lot of emphasis on how people dressed and behaving in a respectable manner.


At the end of the 1920’s, millinery became popular and available for those in the 1930’s. Almost everyone, both male and female wore a hat or a cap when going out.

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As well as hats, men would only sit in shirt sleeves in the privacy of their own home, and did not fully dress into a suit when at home. Even those with very little money would try to have a ‘sunday best’ suit.


As tailoring became expensive, Burtons soon opened in the thirties. They sold affordable mens tailoring and both upper and lower classes bought form them.


Womens wear became more feminine, with rounder busts, a slightly more curvaceous figure, longer hair and wore bias cut clothing with frills. They wore their hair waved with the forehead exposed. Quite a significant change from the boyish figure of the twenties where they hid their forehead with scarfs or a fringe. They also had plate shaped hats that were worn towards the back of the head.


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One of the most glamorous leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, Marlene Dietrich is remembered for her smoldering sex appeal, distinctive voice, and unusual personal style.

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Cinema and films became popular in the 30’s, it involved many significant films. 1939 was one of the biggest years (and still is one of the greatest years) in Hollywood.

Going to the movies made fashion accessible to a wider audience and the hollywood image was absorbed by Paris designers and was then reproduced for everyone to wear.


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Another silhouette had emerged, clothes were made more figure hugging, they were nipped in at the waist, the shoulders were widened and skirts were now long and narrow again.

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The hem lines were uneven and Godets or pleats were set in below the knee instead of hip level like back in the twenties.

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The way people dressed for smart occasions changed. They wore short Bolero jackets, gloves and wore also evening gloves to match gowns.

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The shoulders were dramatically enlarged and stood out as they were more squared.


The revolutionary invention of nylon fibre led to the creation of stockings.

Fancy dress appeared during the 30’s too. Couturiers were inspired by historical periods and a vast array of countries and cultures.


By the end of the decade the fashion scene was so varied. It was very extravagant yet confused, and was perhaps reflecting the disorder and chaos of a world about to plunge into the catastrophe of world war 2.




At the end of the 1930’s was the beginning of the Second World War, and following the start of the war- fashion became very limited, the fashion industry came to a stand still and the last fashion collections of the decade were showed.




Clothes Rationing began on June 1, 1941- two years after food rationing started. Clothes rationing ended on 15 March 1949. Clothes rationing began because there was a shortage of materials to make them. As new clothes weren’t a luxury, people were encouraged to ‘make do and mend’.

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Factories had to prepare materials for use in the war, like silk parachutes and uniforms. Metals were also not made in clothing, like zips and metal buttons as the metal used was needed for war.

Although this decade had began with depression, began a world war, most of the population left unemployed and everyone was panic-stricken, the fashion industry still continued to create a resemblance of sophistication, new flair and grace.


With a new decade beggining, it marked the end of World War 1. By 1918 the world war had ended and with is came a complete change in peoples social attitudes, and people had begun to look forward, away from the drama and catastrophe the war had left on society.

end of ww1

Designers picked up on the new modernism that society was searching for and began to modernise the entire world.

There were new attitudes and behaviour which altered lifestyles and gave a brand new prospect to the 1920’s. Manners were less formal, clothes were made to look a lot more casual and young people became free to move away from their parents.

the 1920's

An important new image arose from young women in the 1920’s. They began to smoke in public, were allowed to go to parties unaccompanied and majorly changed their appearance- cutting off their hair, wore make-up and vastly shortened their skirts.

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A  new style had began- The Flapper Girl had arrived during the ‘roaring twenties’.

The flapper girl were newly styled women who wore short skirts, had short hair often cut into a bob and listened to jazz music. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive make-up, drinking, smoking, and drove cars.  Flapper style made girls look young and boyish: the short hair, flattened breasts, and straight waists accentuated it.


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As well as the flapper girls, there was another version of femininity- young women strived to emulate the looks of movie stars.

Not only had young women changed their appearance, but young men did too. They wore very casual clothes, drank cocktails and drove fast cars if you could afford it.



Sports clothing also suddenly became a big fashion statement as society became engrossed with leisure.



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Two young ladies named Theda Bara and Pola Negri launched a new style of fashion make-up.


Theda Bara


Pola Negri

The new look was called “vamped”, the eyes became very dark and intensely dramatic, and therefore became the vocal point. It was seen as fashionable to conceal the brow and forehead with ribbon, headband, hat or thick fringe.


Not only were the appearances of the men and women changing but also the way fabrics were cut and styled changed too. This era introduced the bias cut, many dresses were made like this and was greatly influenced by cubists (revolutionary paintings)


Sleeves were often long and full, bodices bloused loosely over lowered waistlines, scarves were often slung across the shoulders and tassels and fringing hung from sleeved and hemlines.

New styles of art called Cubism became very popular- this is a style of art where objects are broken up, analysed and hen re-assembled in an abstract form.

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In 1925, the Exhibition of Decorative Arts took place in Paris. It was a new contemporary modern style where there was not a curve in sight. Buildings were rectangular and interiors were simple.

It is from this name that “Art Deco” derived from.

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The excitement of Art Nouveau had soon been replaced by Abstract and Cubist art. Now, instead of decoration, the emphasis was on lines instead.

After the war had ended, there was a post war craze for dance. Jazz bands held dances every afternoon in large hotels, and high society men returning from war waiting for work spent a lot of their time listening to live music.


Men wore a new style of grey flannel trousers, “oxford bags” were introduced by under graduated of oxford university. They were often teamed with casual blazed to form basic lounge suits.



Dark young men with a South American background, with sleeked back hair which wore immaculate tails and pressed trousers called “Gigalos” began to appear during the 20’s.



During the middle of the 1920’s, yes gowns began to disappear, and the cocktail dress began to appear in the paris collections. Young girls favoured cocktails over tea, as the image of the flapper girl arrived.


The dresses were often beaded or embroidered, and also often had tassels and fringing from the skirts.


Curves disapeared and a much more boyish figure was seen. Corsets disappeared and undeveloped adolescent became ideal.


In 1925 Coco Chanel showed straight hanging jersey dresses. They were square hung straight from the hips, they were elegant, sleek and had soft easy shape.

They were seen as the perfect outfit of the “jazz age”


Eventually, during the 1920’s, mass market production became available and fashion had taken a step forward into a classless world.

Towards the end of the decade a fashion for exposure was set. New clothing allowed bare arms, and skirts were shortened. A tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen wore a sleeveless sweater on the tennis courts designed by Patou. This was the start of the connection between fashion and sport.



This exposed look became popular particularly for evenings, the look was developed by the fashion industry. The new exposed look had long line sleeveless bodices, cut away plunge back and were trimmed and draped and used bias cutting.



Soft floral prints and curves took over the Geometric lines of the 20’s. There was an obvious increase in femininity .




Towards the end of the 1920’s, the fashion industry was booming. Jewellers, Furriers, fabric painters and milliners became widely available. People participated in leisure activities and participated vastly in sports.

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WeldonÕs Milliner


Transport became widely available. People bought cars and flying also appeared frequently in the news, ocean liners became a new fascination and people began to live in a life of luxury.







The decade ended with the wall street crash in 1929, the crash signalled the beginning of the great depression (which lasted ten years) and affected all of the Western Industrialised countries. It did not end in America until the ‘American mobilisation’ just at the end of 1941.


15 million people were left unemployed as the stock markets crashed. It was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of America.

The wall street crash contrasted with the life of the roaring twenties, of wealth and excess. The Crash caused fear mixed with a high disorientation, but shock was quickly cauterized with denial.


The new silhouette was a softer shape of the tea dress. It had evolved into soft evening wear that included straight vertical lines and a high waist.

1895  Artist  H. Beamtot

These dresses would have been a lot comfier to wear as they were a lot more casual and let you relax more when compared to previous clothing like corsets and Hobble skirts from the 1900’s.

It was Paul Poiret who was responsible for changing the way women dressed and led them to a much more comfortable way of dressing.


Before the first world war, Poiret became the most exciting couturier a few years before the start of the first world war. If the world war had started a few years before then this mark in fashion history would have been majorly delayed.


The suffragettes had a major turning point in 1912. They began to use militant tactics like chaining themselves to railings.


They wore main stream fashion and wore the colours of white, purple and green. These colours stood for purity, dignity and hope.

suffragettes colours

Men of the early 1900’s had to dress appropriately at all times and must have had an extensive wardrobe. Although they were still obliged to dress appropriately, they began to dress a lot less formally- they began to wear suits called lounge suits. These often had long tails at the back of the jacket.

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Saville Row and Bond Street became a popular part of tailoring history as on these London Streets were where the long established tailors were based.

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British tailoring was considered to be the best in the world and the wealthy shopped on Bond street and Saville Row. The popularity of the top hat had steadily decreased by this point in fashion history. They started to only appear when formal occasions arose from 1914.

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As well as ladies being allowed to wear more comfortable, relaxed clothing like tea gowns and dresses with an empire line (Paul Poiret), men of the 1910’s to 20’s began to wear special smoking jackets. They were the masculine equivalent of the tea gown and they were made of soft fabrics which allowed a more comfortable wearer. They were often embellished or frogged.

smoking jacket

The first world war began in 1914 and there began a significant change in fashion design, fabrics and manufacture.


The world war did not effect the Paris Fashion Week however it did begin to effect the higher society

Because many male couturiers signed up for service it meant they had left women in charge

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Although the war began in 1914, America did not enter the war until 1917. Americas fashion industry then began to support the French fashion houses

The international standing of Paris Fashion Houses remained unchallenged by American talent despite wartime setbacks.

Peplums began to appear on women’s dresses, they also had drapes and layered skirts too.

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Tailored jackets and suits with waisted silhouettes became fashionable and military styling began to filter though into women’s wardrobes. In 1915 a number of designers introduced military references to their collections and the colour Khaki appeared in Vogue

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Skirts also shifted away from the hobble skirt which impeded the woman’s stride, and towards a softer, more flared and tiered style. Hemlines began to get shorter by 1916 and became increasingly important.

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Clothing that required elaborate cleaning and pressing were modified as it became too much work because there was a shortage of domestic labour during the war.

As the war progressed, daywear became the most important because people no longer embraced the frovolity of evening dress. However over the war there was a decline seen in the popularity of the tea gown and women began to wear an outfit called a travelling suit.

travelling suit

The biggest reason to change the design of wartime dress was Gabrielle Chanel. She developed more practical, sporty clothing. She designed sporty clothing which were ideal for wartime chic. Chanel also deigned and development the world famous Jersey Suit. They became the virtue of simplicity. The Chanel suit became known for a “new uniform for afternoon and evening”.

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Chanel said “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”

Her reason for the use of Jersey in her suits were that jersey was practical, low cost and draped well allowing it to flow from the body making it comfortable to wear and a popular choice.

Jersey had previously been used in menswear for sports and underwear but Chanel made the fabric the height of fashion.

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From 1916, there were  an increase in numbers of men that were joining the services. This meant that women were encouraged to enter the work force helping at farms to grow crops and food for the war, and working in factories making practical clothing for the highly skilled jobs in transport, hospitals and farms.

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Women adopted men’s styling as a new approach to working dress. They wore breeches, dungarees, boiler suits and low heeled lace up boots.

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The changes in dress during the war time also echoed in under garments. Women began to wear softer corsets which were much more practical. These bust bodices were no longer used to shape the body, just support it.

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Even after the war had finished Paris continued to dominate international fashion. There became a huge demand for wedding dresses which gave the industry a b00st. Every couture house enjoyed the booming trade after the war had ended.

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wartime fashion

World War 1 marked an important time in fashion history because of its many developments of making fashion become a lot more practical to wear. It was important for clothes to become a lot more practical, comfortable and easier to wear, without the world war, many parts of fashion may not have changed.


Throughout this era, there were many developments in the progression of fashion and ideas.

The industrial revolution marks a major turning point in history, it was a time from 1760 to 1850 that marked to change to new manufacturing processes. This change included the development of electric sewing machines and factories started to use steam and coal to power machinery and trains.

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The beginning of this era marks the end of the Victorian Era. Although by 1901 the Victorian era had ended and the Edwardian had started, Victorian style clothes were still very popular. A lot of trends set in Victorian times didn’t go out of fashion until approximately 1912. For example, many women wore corsets, a very tightly laced undergarment that would force the hips back and the chest thrust forward creating an s-shape. These corsets were worn up to around 1908.

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The Victorian era lasted just under 64 years, right from 1837 through to 1901. It was a period of tranquility, affluence, refined sensibilities and national assurance.
The Edwardian Era (1901-1910) also marked the start date of a world’s fair that celebrated the achievements of the past century- Exposition Universelle.

Exposision Universelle dates back to 1900 and lasted 8 months, from the 15th April to the 12th November. It was a world’s fair held in paris, France.

It celebrated the achievements of the past century and to hasten development for the next century. It exhibited many things we still have today. This included:

– The first escalator


– The Eiffel Tower


– Talking Films

– Russian nesting dolls


– Ferris Wheels


And the Telegraphone (the predecessor of modern day sound recording)- displayed in front of 50 million people.


The exposition Universelle was very Art Nouveau. The name, Art Nouveau, is french for ‘new art’. It is a style of art, that was most popular during 1890-1910.


Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Edwardian Era began.


Although Edwards death in 1910 marked the end of the Edwardian period, it is sometimes thought to have been extended beyond his death including the years up to the sinking of the titanic in 1912.


During the Edwardian era, women wore very tight corsets- for the last time in fashion history.  As many people, mainly upper classes, enjoyed leisure sports which meant more flexible clothing styles were needed.

Four years after the end of the Edwardian Period in 1914, marked the beginning of world war one, as well as the end of a period of french history known as ‘Belle Époque’. This is the French for ‘Beautiful Era’.


It started back in 1890, arising during the era of the Third French Republic. It was a period of time representing optimism, peace at home and in Europe, new technology and scientific discoveries. In hindsight, Belle Époque was named after it being considered a ‘golden age’, being compared to the horrors of World War One.                                         In Paris, prosperity and peace allowed the arts to flourish, and gained recognition in many areas in the arts. For example music and theatre.

Also at this time, ready to wear collections became ready to buy. The first ready to wear collection were from Harrods in London.


When the women of the 1900’s weren’t wearing corsets they were allowed to wear a dress which allowed them to be much more relaxed and was much more comfortable to wear. They were called tea dresses or tea gowns.


They were made of flowing materials that draped well to calf or ankle length. It would have a train and made mainly of sheer fabric in varied sorts.

As well as corsets and tea dresses women often wore skirts that were restrictive enough to significantly impede the woman’s stride. The skirts were called Hobble Skirts.


The gibson girl was the first national beauty standard for American women. Gibson’s fictional images were published in newspapers and magazines during the Belle Époque and were extremely popular.


Wide Brimmed hats were also very popular, and have recently been featured in Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 2012 collection.


The suffragettes were members of ‘women’s suffrage’, which is the right to vote. They chained themselves to railings, went on hunger strikes, set fire to the contents of mail boxes, smashing windows and committed arson.


One particularly woman, Emily Davidson, died whilst attempting to through a woman’s rights banner over the kings horse at the Epsom Derby on 5th June 1913.

Although she had practiced this a few weeks before she failed at the Derby.


In the mid 1800’s a group of painters that mixed Romance, Poetry and Art called Pre-raphaelites opened a new sense of art. The group that it was founded by in 1848, (also referred to as the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) were English painters, poets and critics. There were three original founders; William Holman Hunt,


John Everett Millais;


and Dante Gabriel Rossetti;


Liberty is a shop in London that opened in 1875 selling ornaments, fabric and objects d’art from Japan and the East.


It created in house clothing inspired by the orient, Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite Artists that challenged the couture fashions of Paris. It became one of the most fashionable places in London and fabrics sold for both clothing and furnishings.


The Ballet Russes was a ballet company which performed between 1909 and 1929 all over the globe.


Ballet Russes means The Russian Ballets, and was directed by Sergei Diaghilev. It was thought of as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century.

The director of the Ballet Russes- Sergei Diaghlev, had a lasting influence on clothing. It was a groundbreaking company which incorporated dance, music and visual art.


Diaghlevs Art became heavily influenced by a man named Paul Poiret- who led fashion away from the curvy silhouette of the 1900’s towards a long, lean empire silhouette


Diaghliev designed costumes for the ballet, this heavily influenced fashion.