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  • Writer's pictureginaelisebradbury

1930's Glamour is Unmatched

A look at the significance and power of #1930sglamour


I've recently watched the second series of Netflix's 'Next In Fashion'. Both series are incredibly inspiring if you are a lover of creativity. In terms of originality, I think the person who deserved to win did (I won't say who because nobody likes spoilers). On a separate note, one thing that stood out to me is the 1930's influence evident in some of Bao Tranchi's designs. I'm a sucker for all things vintage glamour, but in my opinion 1930's style and glamour is unequalled.



Carole Lombard wearing a metallic, cinched waist dress in the 1930's.
Carole Lombard wearing a metallic, cinched waist dress in the 1930s. (susanapplegate.tumblr.com)

For me the most outstanding pieces in 1930's fashion are the Hollywood style, floor length gowns. Some key characteristics include the use of bias cut materials, cinched waistlines and #metallic materials including sequins, liquid satins and silks. 1930's cinched waistlines were at great odds with the looser fit of 1920's dresses a decade before. The 1920s saw women make a stance against repression with sartorial changes including bobbed hair, and dresses with a looser fit and higher hem line. The loose fit of 1920's dresses can be seen as a rebellion against the corset. Therefore, the return of cinched waistlines in the 1930s can be seen as an embracing of the feminine shape, but without the restriction and pain of the corset. For me, 1930's dresses exude a sense of power; the sense of a woman saying, 'Yes this is my shape. It's natural, it's beautiful just the way it is and I'm not afraid to show it.'







American actress Grace La Rue wearing a corset in 1900.
American actress Grace La Rue wearing a corset in 1900. (susanaaikin.org)

A mid 1920's dress with the typically loose-fitting shape of the era.
A mid 1920's dress with the typically loose-fitting shape of the era. (augusta-auction.com)

The original platium blonde, Jean Harlow, wearing a gown with frills in the 1930's.
The original platinum-blonde, Jean Harlow, wearing a gown with ruffles in the 1930s. (marieclaire.com)

Whilst dresses of the 1920s were beautiful, rebellious and groundbreaking, 1930's dresses typically included more details. Some examples of these many details are puffed sleeves, ruffles, flounces, bows, trains, cowl necklines, backless designs, trims and frills. I love the ruffles on this dress worn by Jean Harlow (image shown on the left). Jean Harlow really personifies 1930's fashion; she didn't hold back and wasn't too afraid to look striking. Her platinum hair is an example of her daring style. The term 'platinum-blonde' was actually created in reference to Jean Harlow and it has been reported that she went through a painful process weekly to achieve her never-before-done look. (Taylor Orci. theatlantic.com, 2013) Her hair stylist reportedly mixed Clorox bleach with ammonia to dye her hair with. A process that will have caused the breathing in of fumes, and may even have contributed to her tragic death from acute kidney failure at the young age of 26. (Taylor Orci. theatlantic.com, 2013)


Some of my other favourite style icons of the 1930s include the actresses Joan Crawford, Anna May Wong, Dolores Del Rio, Carol Lombard, Ginger Rogers and Greta Garbo.


An absolutely stunning still of Joan Crawford wearing a dramatic monochrome Adrian gown in the 1932 movie ' Letty Lynton'.
An absolutely stunning still of Joan Crawford wearing a dramatic monochrome Adrian gown in the 1932 movie 'Letty Lynton'. (irenebrination.com)

Dolores Del Rio in the 1930's wearing a gown designed by Orry-Kelly.
Dolores Del Rio in the 1930s wearing a glittering gown designed by Orry-Kelly. (hometownstohollywood.com)

Anna May Wong pictured in 1938 for the movie 'Dangerous to Know' wearing a tight fitting dress designed by Edith Head. The dress has a bold print, hood and long matching scarf that can be worn around the waist or neck.
Anna May Wong pictured in 1938 for the movie 'Dangerous to Know'. She is wearing a tight-fitting dress designed by Edith Head. The dress has a bold print, hood, and long matching scarf that can be worn around the waist or neck. (twixnmix.tumblr.com)

A 1931 still of Greta Garbo wearing a silk gown with a cowl neck in the movie  'Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)'
A 1931 still of Greta Garbo wearing a silk gown with a cowl neck in the movie 'Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)'. (fineartamerica.com)

The pairing of elegant, dramatic capes with dresses was popular in 1930's Hollywood style. The below image shows an example of style icon Ginger Rogers wearing a large, silky cape that almost mimics a pair of wings. The use of silky material and dramatic lighting in black and white photography creates a glowing effect and it looks incredibly beautiful. The greater the amount of metallic and/or silky material the greater the effect. In the picture below, Rogers looks glowing and angelic.


Ginger Rogers wearing a dramatic cape in the 1930's.
Ginger Rogers wearing a dramatic cape and gown combo in the 1930s. (marieclaire.com)

Another incredible image of Rogers wearing a metallic dress and cape combo in the 1935 movie Roberta.
Another incredible image of Rogers wearing a metallic dress and cape combo in the 1935 movie 'Roberta'. I always wonder with black and white images of a metallic dress if it was silver or gold. The fringing on this dress almost looks like dripping gold. (whatcindywrotenext.wordpress.com)

Another iconic gown worn by Ginger Rogers is the one adorned with ostrich feathers in the 1935 movie 'Top Hat'. I don't personally like that real ostrich feathers were used to make this dress but the design is exquisite. The dress was designed by the costume designer Bernard Newman. Rogers wears the dress during a romantic dance sequence to the song 'Cheek to Cheek'. The sequence is definitely worth watching on YouTube to see the beautiful dancing, but also to admire the flowing movement of the gown. This particular dress famously caused a rift between Rogers and her dancing partner Fred Astaire. Always a perfectionist, during filming, Astaire was concerned that the light-coloured feathers were floating from the dress and onto his smart, dark suit. He later described the incident as being like "a chicken being attacked by a coyote". (Laurie Brookins. screenchic.com, 2020) Knowing how beautifully the material moved, Rogers showed strength and refused to change her outfit for the scene. When discussing the fact that no one on set took her side during the disagreement she stated:


“That was all right with me. I’d had to stand alone before. At least my mother was there to support me in the confrontation with the entire front office, plus Fred Astaire and Mark Sandrich. My 105 pounds couldn’t have gotten me through the first round without her.” (Laurie Brookins. screenchic.com, 2020)


The resulting strain in Roger and Astaire's relationship didn't last long. He went on to give her the nickname 'Feathers', and to buy her gifts engraved with the moniker. (screenchic.com, 2020) I always imagined it to be a white dress, but apparently it's actually blue. (screenchic.com, 2020) I would love to see a colour photograph of it or see it in person if it's ever included in an exhibition.


Ginger Rogers in her famous 'Top Hat' feather dress designed by Bernard Newman.
Ginger Rogers in her famous 'Top Hat' feather dress designed by Bernard Newman. (screenchic.com)

In the 21st century, #1930sglamour still has a strong presence in fashion. One style icon who has repeatedly been photographed wearing 1930's style gowns is Kate Moss. Other contemporary stars who have been photographed in 1930's influenced dresses include Charlize Theron, Sienna Miller, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Margot Robbie, Katie Holmes and Julianne Moore.


Kate Moss wearing a vintage 1930's influenced Dior gown at 'The Golden Age of Couture' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Kate Moss in 2007 wearing a vintage 1930's influenced Dior gown at 'The Golden Age of Couture' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. (www.vogue.co.uk)

Kate Moss in 2014 wearing silver dress and cape.
Kate Moss in 2014 wearing a silver dress and cape. (zimbio.com)



Margot Robbie wearing a backless silk dress at the premier for 'I Tonya' in 2018.
Margot Robbie wearing a backless silk dress at the premier for 'I Tonya' in 2018. (fashionista.com)

Julianne Moore wearing a metallic gown with a cinched waist and matching cape at the 2022  Venice Film Festival.
Julianne Moore wearing an incredible metallic gown with a matching cape at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. The sheer material adds a modern touch to the design. (en.vogue.me)

Below are some images of 1930's inspired dresses available today that I would love to own. Let me know in the comments which gowns shared in the blog are your favourites and if you do/don't agree with me about the 1930s being the most glamorous decade.







Just for fun, I've added some accessories below that I would style with a 1930's inspired dress:







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