1930s Accessories, 1930s Women's Fashion

1930s Fashion-A Study in Accessories

a 1930s woman with accessories

The start of the 1930s decade came with great financial difficulties, making it hard for women to get elaborate and expensive jewelry and other accessories. Still accessorizing was important in transforming simple outfits to more glamorous looks. The ensemble look was very much in vogue during this decade. It involved wearing a matching coat, skirt, blouse, gloves, shoes, hat and handbag, with appropriately colored jewelry as well. As the depression wore off, women were able to splash more money on accessories which saw more experimentation with hats, jewelry, and handbags.


a woman with strange hatThe cloche hat of the 20s gave way to a more elaborate hat with a wider brim to accommodate longer hair. The cloche hat of the early 30s had asymmetrical and floppy cloches that drooped around the ears but left the forehead exposed. The brims became floppier and wider before gradually narrowing again to make the slouch hat that was popularized by Greta Garbo. The slouch hat was updated again by adding a small visor, topstitching, and a fabric flower bow.

The ‘madcap’ knit hat was popularized by designer Elsa Schiaparelli and became an instant hit because it could be customized in different styles as preferred by the wearer. The DIY spirit of the era gave rise to various designs of the knit hat as many women crochet-knitted their designs. The yarn was sometimes mixed with stretchable Elastix to make a snug-fitting hat.

Actress Marlene Dietrich kept the beret in vogue. The 30s beret had a high back and low front. It was also bigger, with a stiff visor to prevent too much flopping. It was common to see women wearing a beret with an angled flop over one eye.

Turbans, tams, and toques were also popular headdress accessories. Upper-class women added a bit of shimmer with gold threads in their turbans, which could be made of crepe, batik velvet or brocade fabric. The turban was worn with an ancient Greek goddess inspiration or oriental inspirations. Turbans were commonly worn to evening events like cocktails.

blue hatWomen hats also borrowed heavily from men hat designs especially the fedora. Sailor hats, bicornes, and tricornes were inspired by men’s military hats, though they were in soft and feminine designs. The female fedora of the mid-30s was worn high and at a sharp angle, but it retained a feminine look with decorative folds and points.

Straw Panama hats were popular in the summer. These were differentiated from the men’s version by wider and wavy brims featuring bows and bands. Women sailor hats were also trendy when the nautical look was a fad in the mid-30s.


a woman with necklaceThe financial hard times limited what women could buy. 1930s accessories fashion had lots of faux and imitation jewelry made from painted glass instead of genuine pearls, and Bakelite instead of precious stones. The Hollywood scene was influential on jewelry trends as women closely imitated their favorite stars. The art deco movement inspired geometric shapes; circles, squares, and ovals that closely resembled Victorian jewelry designs. The biggest difference was the use of precious stones or their imitations.

Hollywood also popularized sparkling jewelry; sparkles came out very well because the cinema screen was black and white. Diamonds and other clear gems were preferably set into white gold, silver, or platinum to give off the sparkle. For middle-class women, rhinestone was the more affordable alternative to diamonds. Imitation gems were also made using ground glass mixed with semi-precious stones to make ‘paste’ jewelry, which was what the majority could afford.

Jewelry designs by Coco Chanel made a big mark in the cinema. Star and moon themed designs can be seen in most of her jewelry from that era. She also gave pearl jewelry a comeback, with long strands on necklaces and bracelets. Tighter bracelets were made for the cinema to avoid clinking and metallic sounds on set.


a woman with a handbagGloves were popular accessories for both daytime and evening wear. Gloves for daytime were made in the gauntlet style and reached the mid-arm, while gloves worn in the evening reached to the elbow. Different dresses demanded different gloves to match.


Hollywood actresses popularized the super pale look, which was ideal for the black and white cinema screen. This was achieved by applying rice powder, or ivory white tinted powder. The tan look of the 20s was out which saw women wear less or no rouge at all. The bee-stung lips of the 20s also evolved into longer and sleeker bows with red lipstick remaining a favorite for the majority of women.

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