Friday, August 1, 2014

Myrna Loy, Clara Bow, and Me: 1930s Style Today

This outfit could be perceived as modern, particularly because of the pattern mixing. But, actually, as is almost always the case with me, I was also alluding to much older fashion trends.

I was thinking of the 1930s.

Even if people can't quite tell why, they always think I look a bit old-fashioned. I do this on purpose. My outfits almost always allude to the past, but often in subtle ways. This outfit is a case in point. It might not be obvious to those not in the know, but it does bear a passing resemblance to styles of the 30s.

Hedy Lamarr
For example, the transparency of my blouse lends itself to a 30s, retro look. Of course, in the 30s, I would not have worn the blouse with only a bra underneath. A camisole or slip would have been absolutely necessary for decency. But it was hot and it's 2014, so I figured it was okay.

As you can see here, pattern mixing is nothing new, though this woman and I both prefer our patterns to have some sort of thematic link to one another.

Note her puffed sleeves too, which are a bit like mine. Flutter and lightly puffed sleeves were very fashionable in the 1930s.

I also thought a bangle which could almost pass for bakelite would be fun, as they were immensely popular in the 1930s and are collectors' items today. I don't yet own any but some day I will.

Yes, my bangle matches my sofa. Some day, I'll show you that sofa set. It's from the 30s, with amazing, Art Deco lines.

The bangle also matches my thin red belt which I added for a "pop" of colour, to define my waist, and to add to the 1930s look.

After the drop waists of the 1920s, thin belts at the natural waistline made a comeback in the 1930s. (And isn't it kind of cute that this little girl's belt is a bit askew just like mine? They must have felt so grown up in these outfits!)

During World War I, women experienced a level of freedom and autonomy they had not experienced before and this was reflected in their fashions, which moved from heavily corseted, fussy, feminine attire to shorter skirts, and more comfortable, elastic girdles.

These changes accelerated after the war. Instead of "helpless" and decorative women, fit and sporty women were in style. In other words, for the first time ever, thin was in. It was, in fact, a sign of liberation at the time. People had no way of knowing how terribly wrong it would go in the future.

The styles of the 1920s look great -- on mannequins and very thin women. Those dropped waists and flat fronts on flapper dresses, however, did nothing to flatter the average woman with hips, breasts, and a waist. The return of the waist in the 1930s must have been a great relief to mature and curvy women everywhere.

Blouse: Reitman's; Skirt: George; Shoes; Ecco; Hair clip: Stylize; Earrings and belt: vintage
With this renewed appreciation of the female curve, longer hem-lines made a comeback as well. If I were being perfectly true to the 30s, I would be wearing a longer and and it would be a pencil skirt, not an a-line one. But, heck, I'm disabled and I'm short and this skirt looks better on me. Besides, if my outfit were too period perfect, I'd look costumed and those days are past for me. Sort of.

In deference to my disability, I now always wear sensible shoes, though I try hard to find ones that are pretty too. These mary-jane flats were no longer in style in the 30s.

In fact, both mary-janes and shorter hemlines are much more in keeping with the 20s but, again, mixing it up a bit keeps me looking more allusively retro than mimetic.

Besides, mary-janes were one of my earliest vintage fashion crushes. Along with cloche hats and 50s crinolines, 20s mary-janes were unspeakably fascinating to me when I was about ten. I still utterly adore them and am toying with wearing the ones with heels on days when I'm using my disability scooter. I have a beautiful pair left over from the days when I could still walk well.

Mary-janes seem to have been used more for sports in the 30s. Oh well. Close enough.

Did I mention that it was a hot day? Humid too. If you have curly hair, you know what that means: uncontrollable curl and, yes, frizz. If you're Jewish, you probably call the jewfro. It behaves as it chooses to behave and, on this day, it chose to behave...

... like the peyot (forelocks) of little, Eastern European, Orthodox boys, dressed here as they did in the 1930s.

I'm rather proud of my very (Eastern European) Jewish auburn curls, even when they're unruly, as you can see by my pointing to them and insisting that Beau get shots of them.

Pre WWII photo by Roman Vishniac. It is obviously heart-breaking to see all these little boys, knowing how many would be lost in the Holocaust.
They are perhaps the most obvious marker of my ethnicity and I kind of like that. Why look like everyone else when you can look like who you are?

Another strong marker of my ethnicity? My eyes, with their downward curve and little puffs underneath: like this little boy above who looks so much like my uncle, it's uncanny.

Clara Bow
I wasn't actually thinking about any of this when I got dressed. Instead, I was thinking more of Clara Bow and her famous auburn locks. Somewhere in my mid-teens, my grandmother and her friends, who had all been born at the beginning of the 20th century, began exclaiming that I looked like the movie stars of their youth. At the time, I didn't know what they were talking about or who Clara Bow  was, but I could tell from the fuss they were making that what they were saying was a good thing.

I often fuss with my hair, trying to pin it such that I look like I have a bob like Clara Bow's. Lots of women did that then; an actual bob was still considered a bit racy so pinning long hair to look like a bob was a more modest approach.

But it's not easy. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. (See above about curly hair doing what it wants to do, not what I want it to do.) 

Would Clara Bow have approved of my hair? I do hope so.

She loved her unruly hair, and so did the public. So I'm going to enjoy mine too.

Now what about my sunglasses? Are they in keeping with 30s style? In a word: no.

Though they're not so far off as to be awful. In the 30s, round sunglasses were absolutely it, darling.

Clearly, the chicest ladies were wearing them.

Apparently they were also sporting little Wire Fox Terriers ... 

William Powell, Asta, and Myrna Loy
... like Asta in the Thin Man movies. 

If you haven't seen the Thin Man movies... oh, just DO! They're simply too too fabulous (as they would have said in the 30s).

That's it. That's my elucidation of my fashion choices on a hot day in July.

Now go have a cold martini, darlings, or have several, just like Myrna Loy and William Powell. It's tres 30s.

(I'm taking this cocktail party over to Visible Mondays at Not Dead Yet and to Shoe Shine at Ephemera.)


  1. I posted this reference on Twitter just now:

    From Charlotte Issyvoo: Myrna Loy, Clara Bow, and Me: 1930s Style Today

    1. Thank Bill. It's already reflected in the number of reads this post has had.

    2. Love the 1930's style and you are pulling it off in a wonderful way. You need to write a new blog teaching women with unruly hair to just accept it like you do :)

    3. Aren't I teaching women to accept their curly hair just by showing that I do? Should I give tutorials on styling? Part of the trick is seeing what your hair is up to on a given day and then styling it to compliment its mood, rather than wrestling with it to do something it's not in the mood to do.

  2. I'm glad you are enjoying your auburn curls! They are lovely. I have fine wavy hair so I know about humidity.
    Such a lovely walk through the 30's and Summer!
    You should totally wear your high heels on your scooter.
    This is a very bling sedate post for you!
    XO JJ

    1. The problem with heels on the scooter, is that I do have to walk a bit even so: from scooter into and around cafe, for instance. Don't know if I could do it. I may try though, with flatter shoes in a bag in case I need them.

      Yes, low bling day for me. They do happen from time to time. Minimalism has its place, though not generally in my life.

  3. Oh the curly hair... I have that too, mine is fine and silky like a baby's (like my grandmother's, the only difference is that she was blond) and frizzy or curly or wavy, depending on the weather and humidity. Sometimes it is poker straight, but only in winter when it is really cold for a long time. So, Nordic / Scandinavian people can be blessed / cursed with unruly hair, too...

  4. I LOVE the 20s and 30s style (also the hair styling!), so feminine and soft and making every woman look gorgeous! I´m happy that you can get some very nice peaces in the shops today. Every style will come back some day :)
    You look so lovely in your outfit :)


  5. I enjoy your fashion history posts - this one is no exception! Thank you, you always do such a thorough job on them. Your hair are absolutely lovely - do enjoy them!! You are a very pretty woman!