Looking at 1930s fashion illustrations or the leading ladies of the silver screen, one might question if there were women in “my size.” The ideal figure was tall and lean, as it was in the 1920s, but now with a defined upper waist and a small-medium size bust. Fashion illustrations emphasized these lines in unrealistic proportions. Women were drawn 3-4 times taller than her width, which would be physically impossible. Comparing illustrations to photographs of a woman in the 1930s, we can see major differences in how fashions realistically fit women of all sizes and ages.
Were there 1930s plus size fashions? Yes! Were there fashions for mature women? Yes? Short, tall, curvy? Yes, yes, yes! I have collected the following illustrations and photographs of women from average to “stout” sizes, young to old, and everything in between. I hope you find them inspiring to make or buy a 1930s wardrobe for yourself.
1930s Plus Size House Dresses
The simple house dress was identical for all ages and sizes. Small colorful prints in the wrap style Hooverette or the button down shirtwaist dress in dots or stripes dominated home fashions in the ’30s. The fit was loose and untailored, with an optional self-belt.
1930s Day Dresses
While many house dresses were worn out and about for shopping and visiting neighbors, it was more common for women to put on a day dress that featured a little more tailoring in the waist, bigger collars and trim around the neck, a belt, and richer fabrics. Women were more likely to wear a corset when going out, but not everyone did.
1930s Suits and Separates
Another going out option was to wear a 2 or 3 piece suit or ensemble of blouse, skirt, and matching jacket. Some dresses were sold with matching waist length jackets. Sporty knit ensembles had matching skirts and cardigans with a contrasting knit top.
1930s Party, Tea and Evening Dresses
Light and airy floral prints were a big deal in the 1930s. In the 1920s, stout women were told to avoid anything with ruffles or movement, but in the 1930s they were to embrace them. Likewise, evening dress materials continued to favor draped velvets and soft satins as long as they did not cling to the body. The cape top or flutter sleeve, as well as long sleeves, provided the coverage many women desired and the modestly dictated by current fashions.
1930s Casual Fashion
Finding images of average to plus size ladies in casual /summer/pant outfits proved rather difficult. Retailers were not making them, so most women had to sew fun beach pajamas and knit swimsuits for themselves. Shop beach pajamas here.
This and That
A few more pictures of clothing and lingerie to complete out your 1930s wardrobe.
Where to Shop for 1930s Clothing and Patterns
1930s Plus Size Dresses – My curated page of 1930s inspired dresses available in plus size range from spring floral tea dresses (in style now) to elegant Art Deco evening gowns. Day dresses are much harder to find but with a belt and a vintage hat almost any tea length or midi length, simple dress can look 30s enough.
Wide shoes – All vintage decades of wide size shoes can be found here. For the 1930s look at low heel oxfords, T-straps, Mary Janes, and simple pumps.
1930s Sewing Patterns– My curated collection of 1930s sewing patterns. Some are marked “plus-size” to help narrow down the choices. New Vintage Lady is the only brand that specializes in plus size patterns for the 1930s and 1940s.
1930s Colors and Fabrics– Research fashion colors, patterns and fabrics used in fashion in the 1930s.
More 1930s clothing – Everything else you may need can be found here. Ask us for help if you don’t find what you need.
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.