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Fashion History - Ladies' Spring Hats and Jackets in the 1930s

Updated on August 5, 2017
Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores's interest in fashion history dates from her teenage years when vintage apparel was widely available in thrift stores.

This 1932 issue of Ladies' Home Journal presents articles, stories, and opinion pieces for its middle class readers. Well into the Great Depression, women's fashion had become more conservative than in the past. The economic crisis introduced a new concern for a simplified life style that was reflected in the cut of clothing as well as in materials used to create clothing.

Women's fashions of the 1930s offered a more mature look than in past decades. The girls of the Roaring Twenties had grown up, married, and were having children.

Due to the Great Depression (a world wide economic crisis) most families were on a tight budget. In the United States, the unemployment rate was 24% and those who kept their jobs saw their earnings greatly reduced. The world of fashion followed the general trend of the day. Outfits, then referred to as costumes, were simplified and economy was a buzz word.

Quite a few of the fashion articles described sewing patterns. The articles that featured ladies' hats contained an address - you could send away for free instructions on how to make each hat.

Fashion Changes in the Early 1930s

The androgynous look of the 1920s was, by 1932, passe. Gone was the drop waist and tubular look of Jazz Age fashion. Waistlines rose, shoulders widened. and skirts narrowed. A tailored look was in vogue, a mannish style perhaps, but with feminine touches like scarves, fabric flowers, bows, and nipped-in waists. Molded hip lines added a feminine look. Scarves were tied like large bows for a softening effect.

Cotton was taken out of the kitchen and into the streets. Where cotton once appeared only in house-dresses, work clothes, and aprons, by 1932 cotton showed up in dresses, blouses, and hats. One fashion article proclaimed that "nothing is smarter than cotton."

In 1932 dresses were called "frocks." Something cheerful was referred to as "gay." And the word "furbelows" was often used to indicate ruffles or trim.

Ladies' Jackets in Spring 1932

Jackets made for a neat tailored look and could be worn with a skirt and blouse or a frock. Hems fell to mid-calf length. One could mix and match by adding scarves, gloves, and a variety of blouses to stretch the clothing budget.

Tailored jackets appeared in several styles and lengths including boxy, bellhop, short and flared at the waist, fitted and belted. A straight short jacket was said to add a youthful appearance. A longer jacket was (as it is today) slimming.

Jacket fabrics came in soft, draped woolens; rough silks, and cottons that came in ribbed, mesh, coarse, nubby, or fine weaves.

Of course all well dressed women wore gloves and a hat for a complete fashion statement.

Dress shoes sported a chunky heel and slightly rounded toes (unlike in the first illustration) in a pump or tied styles. Dancing shoes features cut-outs and peep toes.

Color came with blouses which appeared in a rainbow of hues. Skirts and jackets came in muted colors so were easy to mix and match. The new form fitting look replaced the loose, straight look of the 1920s.

Tailored look of 1932
Tailored look of 1932 | Source

Magazine Illustration 1932

As you can see, magazine illustration has come a long way since the 1930s. In 1932, most of the images were sketches. Very few fashion models appeared in actual photographs. Color was limited due to the expense and most illustrations were in black and white. Color images appeared in only a few tones.

The illustration on the right features a very short jacket and a high waisted skirt.


The double-breasted jacket on the right is long for a slimming effect and features wide lapels.

A jaunty scarf adds a touch of femininity to the tailored look of the suit.

The hat is quite similar to the cloche hat of the 1920s but has a tiny brim turned up in the back and down in the front.


In this illustration, we see a jacket and hat made of a nubby fabric. The jacket is short with short sleeves for Spring. It is short waisted, double breasted and features a wide belt.

The hat is crowned with a pom-pom and more resembles today's winter hat than something you would wear in Spring.

Both hat and jacket are made of blue terry cloth.


Hats in 1932

Hats were similar to the cloche hats that were so popular in the 1920s. By 1932, small brims had been added. Some hats featured sharp brims. A few brimless hats were very small and perched high on top of the head.

The copy accompanying some of these hats suggested that you could make one of the hats in an hour! One had only to send a 2 cent stamp to Susan Ross at the LHJ and she would send you the simple instructions for free!


The jaunty beret and scarf feature a diagonal stripe. Diagonal stripes and patterns appeared in many of the fashion illustrations of the day.


The film below offers a glimpse into the design world of The Great Depression and includes images of buildings, hats, clothing, shoes, and jewelry. Hollywood stars depict the popular view of glamor.


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