Thirty, flirty and thriving? Not quite. The ‘forgotten decade’ of the 30’s gave rise to some of the most modest styles in history, in response to economic turmoil. The USA had suffered the Wall Street Crash, unemployment was rising in Britain, and consequently, fashion became a little more conservative.
Yet the ‘Golden Age of Cinema’ meant that movie-goers could grasp onto Hollywood glamour as a means of escape from this repression. Inspiration was drawn from movie starlets (such as it-girl Gertrude Lawrence) and the surrealist art movement, with the introduction of new techniques and textures adding a new dimension to fashion. The desired figure returned to a more ladylike appearance, emphasising waistline curves (the ‘Wasp Waist’) and softer, looser hair (just think Reese Witherspoon; Water for Elephants). It was no longer ‘smart’ to be boyish; one was required to be the essence of romance at evening, just look to Fendi’s S/S ’10 collection for this 30’s sensation. False eyelashes even made their first appearance in England to add that extra touch of glamour.
Women found the need to wear simpler, pared down clothes day clothes, as, for the first time, they had more productive and busier lives. Stella McCartney is renowned for her sharp yet simple tailoring. The skirts gracing Jonathan Saunders and Missioni catwalk collections currently show apparent influence from the 30’s; the favoured styles of midi (mid-calf hemlines) and waterfall skirts.
A key look from this decade was exaggerated shoulders – or the ‘coat-hanger silhouette’, if you will. Shoulders came in many varieties; shoulder flares, layers of shoulder tabs, or the masculine broad-shouldered suit, revamped today by Dolce and Gabbana. Emphasis was also put on ‘anatomical elongation’, with dresses that catch you at the throat and ‘leave you gasping in so many ways’! To cater to these needs, designers (particularly Parisian) experimented with draping fabric around contours of the body at a 45° angle to give a superior fluidity of drapery, in comparison to other methods. This, combined with elastication, gave rise to Jeanne Paquin’s ‘Mummy dresses’, which streamlined the figure in a way that holds uncanny resemblance to Hervé Léger’s bandage dresses, worn throughout the nineties and noughties!
Perhaps the most inspiring designer of the 30’s was Elsa Schiaparelli, best remembered for her liaisons with the surrealist movement; more specifically, Salvador Dali. She created the ultimate surrealist pieces; witty prints, a ‘glass dress’ and fantasy hats, including an upside down shoe perched on the head (giving a new meaning to standing on your head?!).
On a more conventional note, Molyneux created the sleek and simple sheaths that epitomised the 30’s. He introduced simplicity at its finest, favouring effortlessly chic pleated skirt suits or slip evening dresses; a look that K-Middy is a sterling supporter of.
So perhaps the modesty of this decade was actually a fashion blessing. Women today have been provided with the means to power dressing, the slimming ‘bandaging’ mechanism, and the importation of falsies has given the TOWIE girls something to get out of bed for!