Starting in the mid 1920s, women’s separates, skirts and blouses, lost favor to the one piece dress. This continued into the early 1930s until the tides changed once again and women found the mix and match convenience of 1930s blouses and skirts economical and pretty.
Blouse styles were overly fussy, reflecting back to the Victorian era with ruffles, shirring, bows, pleats and buttons adding drama to the neckline and sleeves. For sporty, casual looks the knit polo shirt and sweater-blouse came into fashion, following menswear trends, wearing them with shorts and pants.
Sport Blouses – Early 1930s
As mentioned above the early 30s lacked much interest in blouses. What did exist were labeled as sportswear (meaning casual) and were simple in design. A button down blouse and middy blouse (sailor tie) were carry over styles from the late 1920s. New styles were the tunic blouse, a long hip length slip-over blouse with tie belt, and the sleeveless blouse embellished with ruffles.
The wrap over blouse was another new design that could be found on short sleeve and sleeveless blouses. Wrap blouses were almost always embellished with small or large ruffles and made up in embroidered, eyelet or other fancy fabric.
Most colors were neutral white, tan, and eggshell. Some blouses came in primary colors of blue, red, or nile green. Prints were uncommon except for small polka dots.
Blouses with big sleeves
By 1933 the blouse came into its own, very 30s, look. Inspiration was taken from the Victorian era / Edwardian era when blouses had oversized mutton sleeves. The 1930s blouse sleeve was not quite as large but still had dramatic portions above the elbow. The waist was fitted to the torso, worn over bias cut skirts, under jumper dresses and sometimes tucked into waistbands.
Blouses were very modest, never revealing any skin below the neck. Collars were small to medium in size, with soft rounded edges and bow ties at the neck. Fabric were very light and sheer- organdy, cotton voile, silk crepe, acetate, taffeta and rayon blends. Knit sweater-blouses featured the same volumeus sleeves. Neutral colors, soft pink, and candy stripes of red or green were some options.
The mutton sleeve was short lived, slimming down and raising up into the puff shoulder sleeve by 1934. Rich jewel tone colored blouses now outnumber neutrals in both spring and fall. Since women were wearing skirt and blouse separates more often, the colors and patterns matched those of daytime dresses. Patterns such as paisley, small florals and tonal stripes were also adding variety.
The other style changes in the md 1930s were even more fussy details coming out of the Victorian era. Shirring at the neck, chest and waistband, small pintucks, covered buttons, small and large bow ties at the neck, ties at the waist, round or soft point collars, and ruffle flounces decorated blouses to the max. Popular colors were pink, peach, red, brown, teal, green, light blue and dark blue.
Not all 1930s blouses were fussy. The simple utility blouse, service blouse and polo blouse was modeled after women’s sportswear which was taken from men’s fashion. The button down blouse, of cotton or rayon, had a small point collar and a single chest pocket. Plain colors as well as stripes were the essentials to own. These shirt blouses were hard wearing yet feminine enough for a world about to go to war.
In 1938 and 1939 there wasn’t much new to add to blouse styles. The same embellishments were still there with even more bright colors and and patterns of vertical stripes, paisley and plaid.
One blouse style worth highlighting was the peasant blouse or Hungarian blouse. It was a sheer white blouse with shirring and embroidered flowers. Sleeves and waistband were often shirred as well. It had that folksy European charm that was increasingly popular, throughout the 1930s.
While the majority of blouses were worn for daywear, a few silky blouses were paired with long skirts for parties and afternoon gatherings. High shine materials echoed the glamorous occasions paired with equally shiny floor length skirts. Lace blouses, ruffled blouses, sheer organdy and taffeta fabrics were favorite party blouses.
Besides woven fabrics blouses also came in knits. They were called sweater-blouses because of their close resemblance to sweaters with short sleeves (could also have long sleeves.) Knitwear was considered more casual that dressy blouses yet women wore them with both informal and semi-dressy outfits. They were warmer than a long sleeve blouse in winter and more flexible for sportswear in summer.
Initially sweater-blouses were knitted in light weight yarn in the same styles as woven blouses. Neck ties, bows, ruffles, collars and oversized sleeves were designing for knits. As the decade moved on knit tops became simpler, sportier, and more sweater-like. Puff sleeves and a very short length with wide banded hem are the signature details of 1930s and early 1940s knit tops. Knit patterns could be smooth or textured in intricate patterns. The skills home knitters had were amazing!
Shop 30s style vintage sweaters and cardigans.
1930s Polo Shirts
Most short sleeve knit tops were collarless except for the small round peterpan collar and the point collar. Point collars with a 1/4 button or zip up neck were sometimes named “polo shirts.” They looked nearly identical to men’s polo shirts and in fact many women wore men’s polo shirts instead of buying a women’s cut.
Polos could be casual or sporty depending on the design. White polo shirts and skirts or shorts were popular tennis outfits. Blue and white were part of the nautical sailor craze.
The other style of sporty knit top, again, taken from menswear was the T-shirt. T-shirts were knitted from a fine flat jersey cotton without any embellishment. Stripes were very common T-shirts, at first in long sleeve style and later short sleeves. Crew neckband collars and banded sleeves were the only trim. Unlike modern T-shirts, the neckline was very high and the fit quite snug.