Friday, August 21, 2015

1930s Daywear: Fashion in Real Life

I've had this skirt for a while but hadn't worn it because I was planning to hem it at knee-length. I wanted it to look like a skirt from the 1940s or the 1970s. But, lately, I've been really into mid-1930s style so I dragged this midi-length skirt out of my closet for an outfit that alludes to a 1930s day look. Now, I don't think I'll ever hem it!

After the high hems and low waists of the 1920s, hemlines lowered and waistlines (usually accented with a thin belt) raised back up in the 1930s, creating a look that I think is generally more flattering to an adult woman's figure.

As I looked for images from the 30s to illustrate this point, I found that plaid was also popular at the time, making my skirt choice even more appropriate for the look that was my goal.

Shoes and sunglasses: Aldo; Skirt: Tutu ; Shirt: INC ; Earrings, dress-clips, belt, and bracelet: vintage

I'm not sure why, but fashion magazines are constantly telling short women how to look taller, as if it's a foregone conclusion that we all hate being short. One of the pieces of advice that is repeated over and over again is ...

... never ever wear midi-length skirts.

But I have no problem with being and looking short. I think it's cute. Beau finds my stature positively adorable. At least once a day, he comes up and gives me a hug, saying with delight, "You're just little!"

Bebe Daniels
In the 1920s and 30s, many movie stars were very petite but this never stopped costume designers from putting them in "midi" skirts and dresses for casual, day-wear looks. I'm really not sure when the myth that tall women are more attractive started but it's silly. Being "just little" is just as good as being tall.

I mean look at this gal! Isn't she adorable?
And do notice her puffed sleeves too.

Little puffed sleeves were quite popular in the 30s and I had that in mind when putting together my outfit, though these sleeves aren't as puffed as I'd like.

Something like these would be better.

But look at the one young woman's sunglasses.

Mine aren't exactly as they would have been in the 30s, but they're pretty close. (They're actually more of an early 1990s look, and I wore them thusly here.)

I've read that sunglasses only became stylish in the 1930s. Isn't that something? They're such a great way to look cool, it's a wonder it wasn't done earlier. 

I find that they provide a great contrast with my super white skin, instantly creating the illusion that it is clear and porcelain even when it isn't.

Plus, they're darned practical on a super bright day like this one. The light was not particularly flattering, but my back was hurting badly and I was not going to wait around for better lighting.


The earrings are authentic to the 1930s. A friend of mine who is in her 70s gave them to me. They were given to her by her auntie, who had worn them in her own youth, so this places them smack in the right period for my own look. They're screw back earrings, which I find a lot of bother, but there are certain earrings that are worth that bother.

The dress clips were another exciting addition to my outfit. I'd ordered them on Etsy a few months earlier but the woman who ran the shop had been in an accident and wasn't able to get orders out for quite a while. (She's okay now.) When they arrived, I was pretty happy.

I've written about dress clips before, here and here, for example. They're very versatile and were worn a lot in the 1930s and 40s, but could be spotted even later than that.

My passion for dress-clips is probably partly spawned by their obscurity. They're hard to find, especially still in a pair, and few people even know what they are. So, naturally, I love them. I'm like that. I like to learn about new things, especially things about which others know little or nothing, and I love the hunt for obscure ephemera from the past.

Speaking of obscurity, check out this stylish, possibly lesbian couple, one of whom is sporting dress clips. We don't get to see very many images like these, do we? This couple intrigues me like crazy. They're often posted on LGBT, Pinterest boards because they look like they're in love. Who were they? What is their story? If anyone knows, please do tell me!

Though we couldn't call these two exactly chic, they certainly are stylish. They also illustrate another reality of the day: just as with today, the real public was never as thin or as coiffed as those on the silver screen.

One of Foncie's Photos
Everyday folk never looked like people do in the magazines, but they still enjoyed wearing the fashions of the day, regardless of their age or size. The hemline, the hat, the laced shoes, the thin belt, the dress clips, the brooch: this woman has it all going on and she looks lovely.

Older, more ample of bottom, thicker... It's all good, isn't it?

Foncie's Photo
Take the two older women with their backs to the camera here in 1938. They look good to me. How about you? 

The images these women were given as the ideal of feminine beauty were just as unrealistic then as they are today. How unrealistic is this illustration? It's insane! Nobody in the history of ever looked like this.

Nor would they want to! My God, these women look ten feet tall! Even thin women have more curves than these illustrations.

Curvier is lovelier. 

Foncie's Photo
... little (or big) bellies and all.

I will keep explaining this to myself -- and you -- till we all grasp that it really is true. 

Foncie's Photo
Another great staple of the 1930s was the laced shoe, worn with dresses and skirts. Younger women often wore them with small heels, while older women, like the one on the right, wore them flat and comfortable. My maternal grandmother, who was a young woman in the 1930s, wore lace-ups with her skirts till the day she died. 

If it's good enough for the grandmothers of the world, it's good enough for me.

Though my outfit wasn't completely period accurate, I did try to pose for photographs in settings that at least evoked the 1930s. Thus my insistence that Beau included the remnants of the tiles on this shop entrance.

Thus my posing here.

We do have some of the original tile work in this neighbourhood and I've often posed in front of it. I wish we had more!

This tile work isn't original but at least someone made an effort to harmonize it with the rest of the block. So often, that is not the case.

I'm happy to see that the new renters of this space are bringing this granite back to its original shine and splendour. 

This dinner club was not built in the 30s but there is a strong Art Deco influence on its design. 

Just look at the fonts they chose!

Art Deco fonts make me drool. 

I just love them!

Such glamour! Such glitz!

My idea, as I stood in front of the dinner club, was that it was really the 1930s and I was posing in front of my favourite night club, where my Beau and I love to go dancing. Does the illusion work?

I thought particularly of The Cotton Club ... 

... in the day time, when it would inevitably lose some of its glamour and shine and appear more prosaic ...

... as we all do ...

... in the light ... 

... of real life. Reality and real people are more interesting anyway. Aren't they?

(I'm sharing this with Rachel the Hat, Sydney Fashion Hunter, Happiness at Mid Life, Not Dead Yet, and Fashion Should Be Fun.)


  1. I have just spent the last two hours or so reading back through your story by clicking various tagged posts. I was so engrossed that I didn't even notice my hubby going to bed. yes this is really how I spend my Saturday nights these days! I have tears streaming down my face, puffy eyes and a lump in my throat. I have seen your outfits posts before and of course noticed the look of pain on your face but I didn't realise the extent or the cause. You are one amazing woman my friend and deserve every happiness with Beau now. I suffer some back pain myself after a rather nasty incident with an epidural 23 years ago and at worst I am flat on my back unable to move without searing pain shooting down both legs but thankfully those bad days are few and far between these days but they can strike without warning if i move in the wrong way and throw it out. I cannot imagine what you must be going through with this on a daily basis much less the reason that you are in this situation. I hope that your abusers have been brought to justice for what they have done. Thinking of you tonight and hope that you are doing OK.

    1. Sorry I'm replying so late. My wedding took up a lot of time and energy.

      People often say my blog makes them cry. That's okay. It's a pretty sane response to what happened to me. And no, justice has not been brought to my abusers, though I've been the police four times. I no longer believe there is such a thing as legal justice. So, I take this route instead, writing about it, hoping it will lead people to agitate for change, including change in the "justice" system.

  2. As a tall person I am also intrigued at the celebration of height. Maybe they want to celebrate the effort we spent to get all the way up here! :-D And yes little is darned cute!
    This is one of my favourite outfits on you. It just seems to sit so well with your period interests, shoe needs, body shape, colour, the works! Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. 'Twas fun and is certainly a decade I'll revisit many times. I already did in my post about spinsters:

  3. Very fun skirt and love the retro vibe of your outfit and great look back at fashion!

    Thank you for joining TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you Thursday.


  4. I love your posts. They're always so interesting and thoughtful and thorough. I really enjoy movies from the 1930's mainly because of the style. The sets were magnificent and the CLOTHES! I have a cute set of Bakelite dress clips that look like little leaves. I actually bought them at a flea market thinking they were earrings, very uncomfortable earrings. Let's hear it for all of us short people with big personalities.

    1. I worked at Value Village in my late teens and often saw very pretty "earrings" with nasty looking clips on the back. Years later, I realized they were all dress clips. I SO wish I'd bought them then. Sigh.

      And yes, short people with big personalities rock.

  5. One of the best things about fashion in the 2000's (so far at least) is that every hemline length is okay. When I came through the 60's, short skirts were "in", even (although on the longer side) for my mother who was a high school teacher! In the 70's, maxi's; in the 80's, midi's (and stirrup pants, but that's a topic for another day). Maybe these were just in my part of Canada, as I've just done some research and it doesn't exactly correlate with my experience.

    Maxi's were my all-time favourite :)

    1. They're so comfortable, aren't they? They can be a bit of a problem for me with my disability though, especially when I get in and out of my scooter. Did you see this post about maxis?

  6. You always write such detailed and interesting posts. Your skirt is lovely on you. Love all the old retro images.