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Fashion in the 1930s

Updated: May 2

Written by: Kim Vanheule. Reviewed by: Marthe Bonnez.


The 1920s and 1930s marked a significant period of change in fashion in Belgium and the rest of the world, with the Art Deco movement and Hollywood having a profound impact on clothing design. The Art Deco style was characterized by geometric shapes and bold colors. The art movement influenced both day and evening wear. Meanwhile, Hollywood stars in glamorous dresses inspired women around the world to emulate their style, particularly in the fashion magazines of the time.

In Belgium, despite the stock market crash of 1929, there was still a demand for luxurious clothing from the wealthy, as women sought to demonstrate their social status through their clothing. Longer and heavier garments became increasingly popular, and the waistline returned to its natural place, often accentuated by belts. Complicated cuts, such as the bias cut, also became popular, adding a touch of sophistication to women's clothing. The bias cut is a technique where fabric is cut diagonally against the grain, allowing it to drape and flow beautifully over the body. The technique was first popularized by the French designer Madeleine Vionnet, and copied by Belgian couturiers, among others.

In the 1930s, the silhouette remained feminine, with skirts that were straight at the top and widened towards the hemline. Dresses ranged from knee-length to ankle-length, and the waistline moved higher, often accentuated by a small strap or belt with a deep cut at the back. In 1931, three-color outfits and trousers were popular. 1932 saw the rise of very long evening gowns.

From 1933 to 1936, the feminine silhouette continued with accentuated shoulders, often with epaulettes, and the use of stretch fabrics for dresses, allowing them to be made without clasps. Popular evening wear included 'robes-de-style', which showed a lot of skin. Fashion designers such as Lanvin of France and Schiaparelli of Italy drew inspiration from 19th century fashion and oriental designs. Oriental designs refer to clothing styles and patterns from the East, particularly Japan, China and India. In 1935 there was a trend for 'glitter' fashion, while in 1936 floral prints were popular. From 1937 to 1939 there was a wide variety of fabrics and silhouettes. Evening wear was characterized by dresses with a pronounced décolleté, indicating a return to luxury after a period of crisis. With the outbreak of war, however, there was a shift towards functional clothing.

Overall, fashion in the 1930s in Belgium was characterized by a feminine silhouette, with designs inspired by the 19th century and oriental styles, and a shift towards luxury and utilitarian clothing in response to the economic climate. The influence of Hollywood and Art Deco also had a lasting effect on fashion design, shaping the industry for years to come.


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