How Hollywood influenced the 1930s fashion.

March 13, 2013

At first, Hollywood's influence was limited to hair and make up only. Hollywood; a well established industry became forced to be reckoned within terms of clothes too. Ordinary women wanted and began to look like the goddesses on the silver screen. Parisian couturiers considered the fashion of Hollywood as vulgar and way too popular. However, soon they realised they could not ignore the impact of the movies and eventually acknowledged it as something that could be mutual beneficial.

Hollywood has launched several memorable fashions in the thirties, but the most famous of it all was the dress Joan Crawford wore in the movie Letty Lynton (1932). Thousands of copies were sold. Vogue noted in 1938; Every little girl in the country, within two weeks of the release of  'Letty Lynton', felt that she would die if she couldn't have a dress like that.

Joan Crawford with the famous Letty Lynton dress.

 Also Jean Harlow's bias-cut backless charmeuse gown which she wore in 'Dinner at Eight (1933) was highly popular. However, the dress was a close copy of a Vionnet creation, but whilst the original went unnoticed, thousand copies of Harlow's dress were sold. For Jean, the dress was not very practical. For the screen, clothing above all, had to be photogenic. There was little concern for comfort and practicality. The dresses were too tight for the actresses to sit in. This meant that between the takes, it requiered them to recline on leaning boards.

Hollywood fashion became very popular that Paris simply couldn't ignore it anymore and various couturiers adopted the silhouettes. The 1920s had seen the introduction of the talkies. Talkies gave more character development to the actresses, and they had now voices and personalities. The popularity grew exponentially as the people found it easier to establish an emotional bond with the stars. Hollywood took advantage of that and encouraged this through the star system; Hollywood's own classification scheme which transformed actors and actresses in to star products. The actors and actresses often had to change their names, personalities and histories. This was done so that the actor or actress would be accepted by the audience based on a set of personality traits and mannerisms. This was consistent and present in all their movies. It was expected of them that their off screen image would be to match their on-screen persona. 

Carole Lombard

Hollywood was aware, once the fame of a star was established that these became fashion icons, aspirational role models, and also perfect marketing tools as women world wide knew them, and yearned to be like them. Hollywood exploited this to it's fullest. Films wanted to attract female audiences by using a romantic plot and extravagant fashions. Films also operated as high-end fashion magazines and instructed women on the latest fashions and looks.

Many magazines enticed women to purchase the magazine through fashion competitions. A lucky reader could win a copy of her favorite star's dress. The magazines had also vouchers  at the back, which allowed the home dress maker to order patterns which were taken from the screen outfits, so that women who couldn't afford the ready to wear copies were not excluded as customers. They also started to promote the idea that if you dressed like your favorite star and would wear the same make up or haircut, you too could be glamourous and happy. Ena Glen explained in 'Filmfair' magazine: 'It should be every woman's aim to pick out a star personality resembling her own face, figure or temperament and be inspired by it. Choosing clothes will then become an easy and fascinating business'.

Sears catalogue featured 'autographed fashion - worn in Hollywood by' collections, often modelled by the likes of Ginger Rogers and Loretta Young. The attraction of these fashions were the label that was autographed by the star. For $ 3.98 women could buy their very own slice of their favorite performing star.

Autographed fashion by Loretta Young.

Autographed fashion from Ginger Rogers

I would love to have such a piece of clothing - especially an item with the autograph of Ginger Rogers (even though I already have her real autograph on paper, framed with her picure!)
But anyway, wasn't it a marvelous initiative from Sears? Anyone around here that ever saw a fashion item with an autographed label, or owns a piece? 

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  1. Replies
    1. Yes, isn't it a wonderful era?

  2. Wonderful images! There were also Hollywood patterns brought out so home seamstresses could make outfits like their favourite starlets wore in various movies. Love it!

    1. Oh I would love to find me some of those patterns! That would be a swell find.

  3. This was fascinating. I did not know about the leaning boards, it must have been a pain to not be able to sit down. I love the long sleeve black dress with the clips at the neck and the bow belt.

    1. Thank you so much!

      I find those leaning boards a bit scary. If you look at the actress on the right, it looks like she's dead.

  4. Your hairstyle can be one of the biggest fashion statements you could make. Remember Britney Spears’ skinhead look? There have been some particularly striking hairstyles throughout history, and many of them come with very interesting explanations....
    fashion dresses

  5. Thank you for the wonderful history lesson. I have never seen autographed fashion before.

    1. Don't mention it!
      And, no, I haven't seen it myself either. Would love to find me a piece!

  6. Fabulous selection of dresses, they look so elegant! The pictures from Sears are lovely :)

    Thanks for sharing!


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