Age had little to do with fashion in the 1930s. The shapeless 1920s were comfortable, but not flattering, so instead of wearing older styles, “gracious ladies” were encouraged to sport the same fashions their daughters wore. Having grown up in the late Victorian era, these silver-haired women were more used to fancy dresses, lace, feathers, and big hats anyway. 1930s fashion gave them all of these once again.
There were, however, a few designs, colors, and details that were bettered suited to the women over the age of 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Let us explore them by type of garment.
What Did Mature Women Wear in the 1930s?
For the most part, women wore the same colorful house dresses that younger women wore. There were far less rules about housedresses than there were about clothes worn in public. For poor women, house dresses were very simple, usually undecorated except for a white collar. The poorest women, such as farmers, often wore house dresses that were 10+ years old and worn out. For city ladies, there was the addition of more trim, buttons, and belts as well as a general better condition / newer styles and fabrics.
Prints of all kinds of florals, scrolls, plaid, and checks made the house dress something fun to make and wear every day.
Daywear – Suits and Separates
The three piece suit with skirt, blouse, and light jacket was very popular in the 1930s. They were semi-casual fashions for daywear, running errands, sportswear, and sometimes afternoon events. The long loose jacket is what made these outfits easygoing and comfortable on all body types.
For public appearances, women would dress up in their nicest frock and top it with all the accessories: gloves, hat, furs, coat, jewelry, purse. These dressy outfits came in solid colors as well as lovely prints. Fabrics were richer – lace, organdy, rayon, silk crepes, and sheers.
For the Elderly Woman
For the silver-haired older woman and grandmother, Sears came up with a line of dresses for the “Gracious Lady.” These dresses had long slim sleeves, a nigh neckline, self fabric belt, midi skirt length, and a white detachable collar and jabot. Lace collars were especially favored by elderly women – again, a lingering trend from the Victorian era.
Fabrics were cotton voile, or crepes in rayon or cotton in colors navy blue, black, wine red, mulberry purple, and brown. Lighter spring colors could be lavender, rose, grey, and green. Prints were less common with older women, except for small florals or small white polka dots on a dark ground.
Mature Evening Dresses
I was surprised to see mature women wearing evening dresses in the same shapes and styles as young women. The fit would be a little looser, sleeves longer or fuller, and necklines higher, but otherwise the gowns were the same.
Buying 1930s style clothing for the Mrs.
- Sewing Patterns – If you can sew, do so! The small selection of ready-to-wear clothes means your best, most authentic outfit is one you sew from a vintage or repro pattern.
- Day Dresses – This page of dresses and this plus size dress page have some dresses with sleeves and longer hemlines. The choices are still few and far between, especially for larger sizes.
- Skirts and Blouses can be paired together for an easy 30s outfit. Add a loose dress jacket if you can find one.
- Evening gowns are much easier to find than daywear. Almost any long formal dress or ballgown can work well for the 1930s. Avoid a fit that is too tight or too revealing. I love lace dresses instead of shiny materials. Floral prints are also good for late afternoon or summer soirees.
- Shoes – low heel and flats shoes1930s Vintage Dresses, Clothing & Patterns Links
- 1930s Reproduction Brands, Clothing, Shoes Links or 50 Vintage Inspired Clothing Brands
Pants? I have yet to find a reference or photo of mature women wearing pants. Women’s trousers were a new thing for young girls and women. Elderly ladies were less interested in these “manly” fashions.
- Simple, Natural 1930s Makeup Guide
- 1930s Hairstyles for Long Hair
- Vintage Evening Dress Accessories | 1920s,1930s,1940s,1950s
- 1930s Outfit Inspiration & Women’s Clothing Ideas
Do you have questions? Use the site search box to find other clothing, accessories and history topics. Ask us anytime for help with your outfit or research.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.