Sunday, May 23, 2010

School Spirits: Picture Perfect Yet REAL 30s Fashion Inspirations

I often get asked why I have fallen so hard for 1930s fashion.  I also get asked what looks I think define this decade.  As I've noted before, I definitely think that Hollywood played a key role in influencing mainstream fashion during the Depression era.  In fact, at some point, I will share some images from my recently acquired Hollywood Patterns book/catalog, which is entirely devoted to helping middle class women aspire to look like their favourite celebrities via sewing their own clothes from patterns inspired (and/or endorsed) by the likes of Kay Francis, Katherine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, and so on.  However, more than anything else, I think photos of "real" people capture the spirit of this age as it was (as opposed to how it was idealized and imagined to be, by movies and magazines).  

It is because of a recognition of this real vs. ideal distinction that, more often than not, more personal photos are what I look to for vintage fashion inspiration;  I find when I aspire to mimick the looks of vintage starlets too closely I end up feeling the same way I used to feel when drawing inspiration from modern magazines (stressed and a little depressed). This is in no small part due to the fact that the carefully photographed and professionally stylised images are too hopelessly perfect and elaborate to be attainable by clumsy and impatient ole me.  Simply put, while I find images of vintage starlets absolutely transcendent and glorious to look at, I have to remind myself it is as unrealistic of me to aspire to look like someone from the 30s who had access to an army of people devoted to making their hair, makeup, wardrobe, and body flawless, as it is to attempt to emulate modern day models and movie stars on a daily basis.  Illustrations from vintage catalogs are probably equally unrealistic, but the clothes (especially the cotton dresses and house frocks) are endlessly inspiring and feel more attainable and wearable for everyday.  That is just me.  Or maybe not: the blogger behind the now defunct It'll Take the Snap Out of Your Garters shared this commitment to looking to real people for vintage inspiration and I was so happy when she uploaded pictures from her massive collection of photos. 

My especial favourite set was the series of photos taken from a 1935 yearbook she had bought online.  I have to repost them here because, simply put, they embody pretty much every aspect of 30s fashion that I live and swoon for and am more likely to wear on a daily basis:  1) the hairstyles (note how short many REAL mid-30s hairdos were worn--contrary to the hairdos in so many movies I've seen supposedly set in the 30s [sorry, it's a growing pet peeve of mine]); 2) the dresses: calf length, with amazing details like bows, jabots, ruffles, ascots, deco buttons, amazing collars, etc; 3) the blouse and skirt separate looks; 4) the fabrics said dresses and blouses are made of, like plaid, polka dots, stripes (I am a major sucker for patterns); 5) shoes!!  Of course, there is something so poignant about these images.  Very Dead Poets' Society.  Carpe Diem! Final notes:  1) does anyone else wonder when and why student fashion took such a sharp left turn since the 30s?  2) I literally got CHILLS when I spied the girl in front row centre of the first image because I swear she is wearing the EXACT capelet dress I now own and wore to Whitehern Manor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Freaky!! Awesome!; 3) last pic is of what I would have worn for yearbook picture day: my Able Grable  Irene Henderson.


The Darling Homemaker said...

Photo's do hold the truth to a-lot of questions...Now I know not everyone was so serious when taking a picture back in the 1930's.

Carys said...

Beautiful photos!! I always think you look incredibly glamorous! I once saw a photo of someone in the fifties wearing a dress I swear I have, it was pretty weird!
Also, I love your outfit!
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

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Dsata said...

I like this dress with a bow.
I've made some posts about actresses and bows :


Miss Matilda said...

I just love all these girls in their frocks, the girl with her initial on her chest jumps out at Me :-)

BaronessVonVintage said...

Darling homemaker: that's a good point! These do show photos as less sombre occasions than other vintage photos!

Carys: thank you so much! Likewise! Isn't it the neatest thing when you see a dress doppleganger?

Dsata: Ooh, yes I agree. Bows are fabulous. Will be sure to check out your posts!

Miss Matilda: That gal definitely caught my eye, too! Just awesome!!

Lesley Ann said...

@ Miss Matilda-great minds think alike! I would love to have that sweater!
I also was noticing the girl in the 7th picture down-back row, left corner. Is it a full fur or just the collar?