This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers regarding fashions and styles
in the 1930s time period. The questions are organized by sub-category as best as possible.
Q: What kind of suits did men wear?
A: Usually the suits were made of serge or tweed and
were either double breasted or single breasted. Bear
in mind that there was not a lot of money around in
1930 and beyond after the Depression. Jobs were
not too plentiful so there were not too many people
into fashion besides the wealthy.
Gangsters were a breed of their own and dressed "natily"
They wore well made suits, big fedora hats and long
overcoats. I cannot really say that they influenced the dress
code very much.
Q: If we were getting dressed up in 1920s/1930s/1940s styles, what would we wear?
A: The fashions in the 20's were slim line dresses and skirts
and when one dressed up the lady would wear a cloche
hat. Leather or suede pumps. This was the "flapper era"
and the beginning of the dance called the "Charlston"
These years in the 20's were referred to as the "Roaring
20's" Men wore double breasted suits, wide ties with
a small knot. bowler hats or possibly fedoras.
For the 1930s, if you are dressing up - for the
man it could be a pin stripe dark suit, or serge or
tweed. Pee caps or straw skimmers. In the 40's
guys got into draped pants with nice sweaters
Ladies wore skirts long in length a nice top or
possibly suit jacket Shoes were suede with a
strap across the instep. Full skirted dresses
were also worn In the 40's the teenage girl
wore below the knees skirts with mega oversize
Outfits of the 30's were varied. However the dresses
were predominately long and slender and if worn with
a jacket, the jacket would be button front with perhaps
a ruffle at the waistline. Shoes would be black pumps
either suede or leather or a heeled shoe with a strap
across the instep. Hats would be a cloche or a
pillbox with a veil or big picture hats with wide brims.
Also see the answers to other questions below.
Q: Can you describe what men, women, boys and girls would wear when dressed up?
A: Fashions of the 30's varied according to income.
The ladies wore long skirts very slender with a
variety of tops. The tops could be long sleeved
blouses with a ruffled front or perhaps a satin
blouse. They wore suits - the length again being
long and the jacket either long well below the
hip line or shaped in at the waist then a little bit
of a flare. Hats and gloves were always part of
any ensemble. The hats were many in style -
some being big picture hats and others similar
to a pill box hat with a veil. Shoes were plain
pumps or heeled leather with a strap across the
instep. When the average woman was at home
(which most of them were) they wore cotton
housedresses that had a belt to match and were
The men, when dressed up, wore suits probably of
serge or tweed material. Some were pin stripe with
vests and narrow lapels. The trousers were usually
cuffed. Shirts had high collars that were starched.
The ties were wide and could have a tie pin for show.
Shoes were plain black , laced for dress and a more
rugged shoe would be brogues which looked like they
could last forever. Suspenders were also part of the
attire and quite often they wore sleeve bands. The
working man (blue collar) a colored shirt and rugged
Little boys wore wool pants, or breeks with knee high
wool socks. Summer time they wore shorter versions of
long pants. This would be worn with a sweater or a dress
shirt but no tie.
Little girls wore cotton dresses in the summer which were
very feminine. They had puffed sleeves and pretty little
collars. The shoes were flat buckled shoes. Regular wear
were skirts and blouses or sweaters. No ladies wore slacks
until the outbreak of war in 1939 when women went out to
work en force in factories They could then wear slacks or
a kind of stylish coverall.
Q: What would you have worn as a teenager?
A: I attended Lansdown Public School then we
moved to the east end of the city and I attended Adam Beck
Public. Continued on to Malvern High. During elementary
school, we wore what our mom's could make on the sewing
machine from hand me downs. We were all in the same boat
so there was no snobbishness over clothing.
In High School the trend was skirts, with the biggest and baggiest sweater
we could find. Usually wore moccasin shoes with no socks
although some wore saddle shoes with socks. We handled
the Depression okay because we had no other choice but to
do so. Money was sparse and ... we were assisted by the city in the form of chits
for food, etc. They supplied pogey pants and boots for my brothers
every six months.
Q: What would kids wear on a farm?
A: Boys would wear bib overalls, boots and shirt. If it
could be afforded he would have a pair of wool type
trousers, straight legged, boots and probably a shirt
kept for dress up on Sundays.
Little girls would wear a cotton dress or skirt with a
blouse, laced shoes or shoes with buckles.
Q: Can you give me an overview on clothes of the 1920s?
for men in that era were kind of dapper. Suits were
slim cut with vests and single breasted jackets. Black
kind of pointy shoes with spats over them were on the
agenda of the well dressed. Shirts were high collared
ofttimes worn with wide ties. Bowler hats were predominant.
Ladies fashions were fluffy frilly dresses or tailored suits
long skirted with a frilly blouse perhaps. Cloche hats were
also popular. Shoes were with a heel and strap across the
instep. This was kind of a happy decade and was known as
the "flapper era". The Charlston was the dance of choice.
Working class men would wear slim trousers with braces.
cotton shirt and boots. Pee caps were popular.
Working women would wear a tailored suit and severe
hairdos such as pulled back in a bun.
[Re 20s clothes worn by blacks]
In the 30s black men and women were usually in servitude to whites.
They worked in cotton fields or farms so therefore would dress
for these jobs. I suppose there was the odd black family that dressed
up a little but these people were not educated nor did they make very
[Re what a 12 year old girl would wear]
Twelve year old girls wore dresses or a skirt and nice blouse or a
sweater with a skirt. Shoes would possibly be patent leather flats
which would be for dress up - otherwise they would be leather.
There were no jeans worn or slacks.
Q: What material would clothes have been made of?
A: Fashions for ladies were two piece suits with long skirts worn with a
nice silk blouse and black pumps. They were made of wool or linen
if worn in the summer. Full pleated skirts with a nice blouse would be
another option. Skirts would be wool or rayon. Around the house
ladies wore cotton housedresses made of cotton. and colorful.
Men wore double breasted suits with vests with a dress cotton shirt
and tie. These suits would be either plain wool or sometimes tweed.
Casual wear would be pants, serge, with a shirt open at the collar or
a sweater in cool weather.
In the 40's girls wore wool full skirts with a blouse or sweater and
saddle shoes. Guys wore what they called "strides" with a shirt and
or a sweater. When the wore broke out a pretty ridiculous style for
men came out called "Zoot Suits" They were draped pants with an
extremely wide knee and tapered down to a very narrow cuff. They
often wore a watch chain that hung halfway down the length of the
pants. The top was a double breasted jacket and they often wore
fedoras. As you can see, every era had a dress code of their own
and of course today it all has to be designer clothes.
For the poor folks the fabric would be cotton in the summer and
wool in the winter. For those a little better off, it would be silk, or satin dresses and
wool blend for men's suits.
Q: What would an immigrant "off the boat" wear?
A: I would think that a female immigrant, say from Italy, would wear
a black dress mid calf length, black shoes, a purse probably in
black with a long carrying strap. Her coat would be a dark color
same length as her dress and she would wear a kerchief over her
head. There really was no dress code for immigrants - they dressed
the best they could and came by boat usually.
Q: If I was a teenage girl in the 40s what would I wear?
A: In the 40's girls wore mid calf skirts, probably made of wool in
the cool months, They were very very full, and a very oversized
sweater would complete the outfit. Footwear would be ankle
socks or bobby socks as they were called then. Shoes were two
tone saddle shoes with laces. This is as close as I can come to
Q: What were hairstyles like?
A: Hairstyles of the 30's were varied. One style was
a lot of waves on top of the head with curls around
the bottom. Older ladies would pull their hair back
into a bun at the back. Some ladies wore their hair
in an upsweep. Others wore it kind of long with a
little curl at the bottom and curly bangs. Another do
was short curly hair with a velvet bow on top and to
A very popular style in the 30s for little girls was the Shirley Temple
look. Curly curly hair with some ringlets.
Q: Can you describe a finger wave hairdo and how to do it?
A: The finger wave hairstyle was a style that was worn close
to the head. A swished bang to one side of the forehead
and crimping of the hair across the skull. It would be like
squeezing the hair between the index and middle finger
to form waves in the hair.
So to do a fingerwave for yourself, wind your hair around the forefinger
right to the scalp then hold in place with bobby pins. When the hair
dries, take out the pins and comb the curls and leave
them fairly close to the head.
Q: How would a maid do her hair?
A: As I remember the era and the hairdos of maids, it
would be appropriate to comb your hair straight back
and have a bun at the neckline. A short, uncurly hairdo
would also work, as the maids usually wore a cap that
sat on top of the head and had a bit of frilly white trim
across the top.
Actually any style that was very neat
and worn with a maids cap would suffice. A short
hairdo would be best overall if you intended it a little
on the curly side.
Q: Can you describe how to do other 30s/40s hairdos?
A: In the 30s I wore my hair about ear length, straight and on
dress up days with a bow on one side. Later it was braided
and like a horseshoe on the back with big bows on either side.
In the 40s the hair was worn long to the shoulder with
permed ends Some wore it shoulder length and no curl- just
smooth and well groomed.
Also, some hair as I remember was done in a shoulder length page boy.
It would be curled under and the bottom but remain a smooth look
with a little bit of curl at the forhead and swept to one side. You
could also do the 40s thing a little shorter, curly on the end and a
little curly at the forhead. If you remember the Andrew Sisters,
who did a lot of entertaining for the troops during the war, you would
get a definite idea of the hairstyles.
Q: Can you describe home furnishings?
A: Home furnishings for kitchen : Table was wooden
framed with a metal top. Dishes and sundries were
stored in a kitchen cabinet. Wooden chairs to
complete the kitchen set.
Dining Room: Dark mahogany furniture or oak with
leather padded chairs. There was a buffet to go with
the table and the good dishes would be stored in this.
Living Room: Big and heavy stuffed couch and chairs
with possibly portiers made of velvet for the windows
(portiers were a kind of drape) Rugs were ornate and
certainly not wall to wall as they are today.
Beds: Again heavy wood furniture with an open spring
on the bed and a stuffed tufted mattress.on top.
Bathroom : A toilet with the flushing chamber up high
toward the ceiling and a long chain hanging in order to
pull and flush the toilet. Bath tubs were not too long and
sat on four feet - but did the job.
Washing was done in laundry tubs with the use of a scrub
board - all done by hand. Most all of the washing had to
be ironed. In the late 30's my mom got a wringer washer
with an agitator and thought she had died and gone to
Q: When doing interior decorating, what colors were used?
A: In the 30's unless you were monied people, there was
not too many trendy colors. From my own experience,
our home was spotlessly clean . Wallpapering then was
a cheap route to go - now it is very expensive. Ceilings
were done in a white on white paper. We made our own
paste and it would take two people, one on each end to
stick this to the ceilings. I think during those times you
bought whatever was on sale rather than getting in to
The 40's were a little better economically due to the
outbreak of war. Wars are notorious for stimulating
the economy. Dark green and burgandy either in paint
or wallpaper became popular. Yellow was a favorite for
kitchens. Off white wallpapers were popular and colors
basically were very conservative. Decorating imaginations
did not stretch to the magnitude of todays designers.
I cannot tell you what the monied people preferred, mainly
because I did not know any.
More thoughts: Walls wpuld be painted in a neutral color.
Kitchens would be painted possibly a light yellow. I am sure
those with more money would have different trends. In one
house we had we had navy on one side and deep red on the
other - portiers better known as drapes. Windows would be
plain panels and also criss cross frilly curtains with tie backs.
A little more money existed in the 40's and the trend was still
mostly painted and papered walls. Some people went for dark
colors and others lighter shades. Trendy styles were not much
in existence and it was more important to keep a clean home
than keep up with the Joneses.
Q: What were houses like?
A: The homes in the 30's were usually two and three stories
high. They were usually brick which in those days was two
layers of bricks not the brick veneer of today's houses. Many
had big front verandas Windows were long and narrow and
they were opened by pushing the bottom part up. They usually
had larege kitchens with wood cook stoves. Dining rooms were
not unusual and fairly large living rooms or drawing rooms as
they were referred to sometimes. The ceilings were very high
and wallpaper was the cheapest way to decorate back then.
Even the ceilings were papered. Most of the wood trim was
dark - some people painted over this. Heating systems were
coal furnaces = the heat was not that efficient. Most had ice boxes
not refrigerators.in their homes.
The families would vary in size - I came from a family of six children
The times were very poor during this decade and many were on some
kind of city relief to get by. Jobs were not plentiful as a result of the
Crash in 29. To go to a show was a real luxury and not one that was
experienced too often. An odd penny for candy treat was a bountiful
day. Kids played in the streets and in school yards during the summer.
More thoughts: Windows were functional but oft-times
not very attractive. There were bungalows
as well - double brick and most with some kind of
porch. They were very solidly constructed with
lathe and plaster walls but not insulated very well
such as they are today. Heating was mostly coal
furnaces and houses would have a coal bin in the
basement that could be accessed from the outside
when the coal men made their deliveries.
Overall, though not modern such as todays houses
are, they had a lot of character.
Country homes such as on farms, were oftimes
clapboard with wood stoves for heat. They were
mostly painted white.
Q: Please talk more about house styles.
A: Homes styles in the 30's varied. Many had attics and hardwood
floors throughout. Tall windows all with window sills and more
wood windows would be installed outside in the winter to serve
as storm windows. Many homes had big front verandahs which
were great to sit out on when the weather was hot.
Bathrooms had bath tubs that stood on four feet and were not very large.
Some homes had dark wood baseboards and staircase railings
Some homes were tall and narrow and very close together. Others
had more property and were just two story. They were functional
more than trendy.
Most were heated with wood stoves or a big
coal furnace in the basement.
We could not afford to buy a home
back then so we mostly rented. Rent would be around $8 a month.
You could buy a decent little home for about $1500 to $3000.