1930s

1930s

Catalogue Home 1920s 1940s/1950s/1960s

Date Artist Medium Description Additional Information Cultural Significance
Women in aprons 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in aprons with insets of daywear The bib style apron was most popular and used to protect clothing when doing household chores. Aprons were actually seen as fashionable and were included with many dresses by renowned designers as a functional design element.
Furniture Advertisement 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Furniture advertisement for various rooms Light color schemes including ivory and pastels were most common in 1930s interiors. Because of the economic strife, many interiors were patterned, whether in geometric prints, polka dots, or organic scrolling shapes, to cover signs of wear and use.
Women in glamorous outwear 1939 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in glamorous outerwear with images of suggested footwear The typical 1930s silhouette was long and column-like, including dramatic collars cut on the bias. Due to the Great Depression, luxurious fabrics such as furs were not as often worn by the everyday woman because they were too expensive, which displayed a great divide in economic prosperity associated with this decade.
Women in hats 1932 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in hats The tilt hat or doll hat, which sat on the head at an angle, was popular. Garments began to be marketed as timeless investments since people could no longer afford to follow every trend as they did before.
Beach/Dinner Pajamas 1932 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in dinner/beach pajamas Pajamas were an emerging trend for entertaining in a more relaxed setting. Sleepwear evolved into outerwear pieces that were sexy alternatives cut on the bias. Hollywood eveningwear promoted this glamourous design, which emphasized the shoulders and a long lean silhouette.
Women in brassieres and slips 1931 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in brassieres and slips Better marketing in the 1930s increased the sales and prominence of lingerie. In comparison to 1920s lingerie, that of the 1930s was less embellished and trimmed, partially due to the expenses this added to the designs in the post depression era.
Envelope purse advertisement 1932 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Envelope purse advertisement with inset of furniture Many clutch purses and handbags in the 30s showcased Art Deco inspired geometry. Form following function was a design concept that crossed over between appliances and architecture into fashion, such as the clutch. It was small and streamlined, staying true to its purpose-- to hold small personal items on the go.
Fashion Poses cover 1933 Smith and Ballard (published by) Drawing on paper Fashion Poses pamphlet cover Fashion illustrations captured the fantasy of fashion, especially during times of financial strife. The post depression fashions followed a tradition of becoming more serious as the 1930s advanced, resulting in minimal sophistication. The figure appears to be modeled after Jean Crawford, who had a strong impact on style during this period.
Kitchenware 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Images of kitchenware The model 1930s kitchen was thought to have top-notch appliances. As an alternative to metals, the development of plastics picked up in the 1930s. Melamine was one new component used in tableware-- it was combined with formaldehyde to become melamine resin, which could be molded.
Dinnerware 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Image of wheat patterned dinnerware These dishes were a limited edition set of Lenox china due to its defined pattern. This type of china was advertised for brides as they set up their homes for entertaining. The wheat pattern is symbolic of both fertiltiy and productivity.
Radio 1930 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Image of radio Prior to the 1930s, radios still operated on batteries instead of electricity. The 1930s were part of “The Golden Age of Radio,” where shows ranged from comedy to radio plays and cooking shows. Radio became a valuable tool to deliver messages to a widespread audience, including style and fashion.
Images of women in daywear and hats featuring T-strap shoe 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Images of women in daywear and hats featuring T-strap shoe Veils on hats created an alluring touch as Hollywood gained in popularity. The US suffered declines in employment, exports and manufacturing. Often, designers used available materials to enhance garments and accessories as economical and attractive options.
Women in lingerie 1931 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in lingerie with additional style options Lingerie was typically made in soft pastel colors with a heavy and supportive structures. A one-piece undergarment called a singlette was commonly worn. Undergarments provided women with the opportunity to achieve desired silhouettes despite body types. Materials such silk and rayon with lace trim enabled textile and design technology to modify the body.
Female model advertising Spring fashions late 1920s/early 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Female model advertising spring fashions The transistion between the late 1920s and early 1930s saw a much more refined and feminine look in womenswear. Fashion began to transition due to the Great Depression and the rise in Hollywood movies. Screen actresses became fashion icons and their styles were quickly imitated and reproduced for the general pucblic.
"Spring Opening" advertisement of woman in dress on the beach March 5, 1930 Artist Unknown Original pencil sketch "Spring Opening" advertisement of woman in dress on the beach Wrap dresses were in fact being designed long before Diane Von Furstenberg in the 1970s as a comfortable and stylish option. Fashion was advertised in specific environments to create fantasy and a desire for new clothing options. By the 1930s, resort sportswear became everyday attire across all demographics.
"Spring Opening" advertisement of woman in dress March 5, 1930 Artist Unknown Original pencil sketch "Spring Opening" advertisement of woman in dress (rough sketch) Dresses were structured but simple in appearance. Slim shapes created an androgynous appearance. By the late 1920s, hemlines lengthened again to transition into the column-like silhouette of the 1930s and excessive embellishments became less common.
Women in long dresses and fur trimmed coats 1933 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in long dresses and fur trimmed coats Women in the 1930s continued to embrace short hairstyles, however the look softened with curls over the ears and at the back of the head for a ladylike appeal. Garments followed the natural curve of the body with the addition of gores and bias cut segments set into hipline yokes. Fashion designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli capitalized on this construction method.
Advertisement of women in frilly daywear 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Advertisement of women in frilly daywear Gloves were an essential accessory for most outfits at this time. Ruffled bodices and dramatic sleeve designs such as the bell style created movement and glamour.
Woman reading Whitthorne & Swan advertisement 1938 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Woman reading Whitthorne & Swan advertisement Whitthorne and Swan was located in Oakland, California, and acquired by a chain called Hale's. The woman featured in this illustration has a striking resemblance to Betty Boop, the most famous cartoon character from the 1930s.
Living room furniture with an inset of a lace-up shoe 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Living room furniture with an inset of a lace-up shoe Furniture of the 1930s, although bold in shape, could also be dainty and feminine through floral embellished fabrications. This period in design blended tradition with avante-garde developments, resulting in expressive but functional styles.
Advertisement of women's tops 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Advertisement of women's tops including an appropriate underlayer Separates evolved in the 1930s, making a top an essential part of the wardrobe. Various necklines were featured as this article of clothing became a practical staple. Coco Chanel introduced casual knits into fashion in the late 1920s. As a result, active styles were in demand and eventually classified as sportswear.
Women's fashions with insets of men's footwear 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women's fashions with insets of men's footwear Women's hats were often worn at a jaunty angle. Storyboard artists gained their stride in the early 1930s as Walt Disney discovered the importance of narrative-related animation. As such, advertising personalized fashion by featuring portraits of the wearer.
Outdoor Seating 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Outdoor seating American furniture design expanded once mass-production techniques improved. Patents using a swinging seat from a four-bar linkage appeared in 1939 as an example of modern technology-- included were fabric patterns using striped motifs.
Woman in coat 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Woman in coat with images of personal garments and accessories Clean lines embellished with fur trim were typical of outerwear at this time. Large fur collars were prevalent from the mid 1920s through the mid 1930s. Fashion advertising included a view from the inside out, displaying the importance of layering in relationship to style.
Women in floral dresses 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in floral dresses Unlike in the 1920s, shoulders were often covered in 1930s daywear with sleeve designs such as the pagoda and the batwing. American fashion designers worked for dress manufacturers where they would design a line for a given season.
Women in everyday dress 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper Women in everyday dress with insets of lingerie and household accessories Lingerie ranged from one-piece singlettes to brassieres and skanties. The modern age included all aspects of lifestyle including fashion, home, and body-shaping-- streamline was the the model for a practical and simple aesthetic.
Advertisement for fall dresses 1930s Artist unknown (advertisement attributed to Whitthorne & Swan) Drawing on paper (mounted) Advertisement for fall dresses There were many stylish details and fabric choices as fashion was inspired by historical films. A modified leg-of-mutton sleeve was commonly worn. In the post Depression years, women desired to be fashionable at an affordable price.
Advertisement for cotton dresses 1939 Artist Unknown Drawing on paper (mounted) Advertisement for cotton dresses Cotton was an affordable fabric and easy to work with-- not to mention comfortable-- which made it popular. Designer Claire McCardell mainly designed sportswear and casual clothing for Townley Frocks. Cotton was an important fabrication for this design aesthetic.
Advertisement for dresses and coats 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper (mounted) Advertisement for dresses and coats Shoes in the 1930s had a short heel and were stylish, but still sturdy, unlike the stilettos that emerged later. The ready to wear market expanded as most dress firms produced clothing for four seasons. Advertising seasonal dress was essential to remain competitive.
Women in elegant dress and veiled hats 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper (mounted) Women in elegant dress and veiled hats This diamond shaped stomach piece was popular on many bias-cut dresses and provided extra shaping. Madeleine Vionnet revolutionized fashion and its relationship to the natural contours of the body by originating the bias cut.
Vacation story featuring families in beachwear 1935 M.B. (story in the Daily Herald) Drawing on paper (mounted) Vacation story featuring families in beachwear The Daily Herald was-- and is-- a local publication which ran more than just fashion features, including current events and entertainment. Lastex, a fabric made from yarns with a rubber core established a new model of swimwear that was more form fitting and wrinkle-free.
Vaction story 1935 M.B. (story in the Daily Herald) Drawing on paper (mounted) Vacation story featuring illustrations of the states During the 1930s, wealthy Americans and Europeans were photographed at fashionable resorts, both in the United States and abroad, which advanced the fantasy of vacationing for the emerging middle class. New methods of travel such as the automobile provided opportunities to explore the country.
Easter Handbag Advertisement 1930s Artist Unknown Drawing on paper (mounted) Advertisement for Easter handbags featuring insets of lingerie and shoes Easter was a fashion holiday, as the entire family had to dress in their very best for spiritual associations and festivities. While seasonal dress was important during the 1930s, so was holiday attire. Retailers used this opportunity to establish market demand for garments and accessories that defined specific occasions.

Photography by David Parnes