At the peak of the Great Depression, the majority of Americans couldn’t afford to follow current fashion trends. However, that didn’t stop Hollywood from bringing its own version of high-end style to the general public. In 1933, a magazine article titled “Fashion and Filmspeak” described how film stars were influencing what people wore. It also illustrated how movie costumes influenced everyday fashion. Even though this may not be obvious at first glance, nearly every 1930s fashion trend can be traced back to Hollywood glamour. Keep reading to learn more about the influence of Hollywood on 1930s fashion and how clothing in film noir influenced fashion trends throughout the decade.
From Shimmering Silks to Tawdry Tunes
At the beginning of the 1930s, high-end clothing was heavily influenced by shimmering silks and other glamorous fabrics. But, by the decade’s end, cheaper fabrics (and clothing styles) were in vogue. The advent of the Depression of 1929 caused the price of silk to drop dramatically. In 1930, the average price of silk was $116 per pound. But, by 1932, the price had dropped as low as $3.75 per pound. It’s likely that many Americans bought cheap fabrics to make ends meet. It also seems likely that most of the public couldn’t afford the glamorous fabrics that were used in the film industry.
Decollete Dresses and the Slink
The 1930s were the decade of the slinky dress with a low décolletage. The most famous example is the “slinky” dress that Hedy Lamarr wore in “Ecstasy” (1933). This style can also be seen in the “decollete” dress worn by Carole Lombard in “He Smiled Softly” (1934). Together, these dresses created the “slink.” The slinky decollete dress featured a very low neckline that bared the shoulders. Most of the time, the shoulders were fully exposed, but occasionally they were covered by a sheer fabric that hung down like a shawl.
The Rise of Slacks for Women
The rise of slacks for women in the early 1930s can be traced back to screen sirens such as Clara Bow, Helen Twelvetrees, and Carole Lombard, who wore men’s clothing in their films. In a 1931 article entitled “What Women Will Wear Tomorrow,” author Anne Verne Hagen claimed that the rise of slacks for women was “directly related to the cinema.” She stated that the “modern, independent woman” who “wears slacks” was “born in Hollywood.” When “Garbo Talks” (1934) was released, it featured Jeanette “Garbo” Swann wearing slacks. She later claimed that the costume wasn’t revolutionary and “that girls were wearing slacks long before her picture.”
By the end of the 1930s, darker colors were worn more often than lighter shades. This was largely due to the influence of film noir cinema. Dark-colored clothing was seen as more fashionable than light clothing. So, darker shades such as gray and black were worn far more often than lighter shades like pink and yellow. A great example of this trend is the light blue and pink suit worn by Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight” (1932). By the end of the decade, a suit like Harlow’s light blue ensemble would have been out of fashion. Dark-colored clothing also appeared in films. For example, the suit worn by Myrna Loy in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) was a dark shade of brown.
Solid Colors and Metallic Trimmings
Solid colors were worn more often than prints, especially in the last few years of the decade. This can also be traced back to film noir. Because black-and-white films were often shot indoors, designers would often use black fabrics as a way to hide the dirt and grime associated with indoor studio settings. In the late 1930s, designers often used metallic fabrics as a way to add glamour to darker-colored clothing. Examples of this trend can be seen in films like “A Star Is Born” (1937) and “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936).
Prints: Focus on Art Deco Shapes
Many 1930s fashion trends can be traced back to Hollywood, but perhaps none more so than prints. While dark-colored clothing was worn more often than light clothing, prints were a frequent sight on the red carpet. Because of this, designers often used prints in their clothing designs. They also used Art Deco shapes in many of their prints. In the 1930s, Art Deco was the prevailing style in architecture and design. It was a popular artistic movement that combined geometric shapes with bold and bright colors, or black and white. As a result, many 1930s fashion designers incorporated geometric shapes in their prints.
The 1930s saw many changes to everyday fashion. Some of these changes can be traced back to film noir cinema. In many ways, film noir was the catalyst for fashion in the 1930s. It’s important to remember that the above trends only represent a few of the fashion trends that occurred in the 1930s. There were many other fashion trends that occurred during the 1930s.