What should I wear to a 1930s themed party? A formal Art Deco affair needs an elegant long evening gown with, long gloves and a fur stole. An afternoon tea is delightful with a floral print midi dress, sun hat, and short gloves. A casual 30s event calls for high waited pants or wide leg beach pajamas for a beachy resort look.
Of course there are many more 1930s outfits you can wear to a 1930s themed party. Let us a explore some ideas and how to put them together with 1930s style clothes.
Old Hollywood Glamour
When most people think of women’s fashion in the 1930s they think of beautiful Old Hollywood evening gowns with sparkling jewelry and rich fur accessories. This is perhaps why most 1930s events are evening affairs. From Art Deco balls to Dapper nights and formal nights on vintage cruises, the 1930s are the perfect theme!
For a 1930s evening gown outfit:
- A long slinky 30s style evening gown was usually sleeveless but often included a cape or matching jacket. Mature 30s ladies dresses had long sleeves and were made with heavier fabrics such as velvet or lace. The bias cut gown is the most 1930s (that means the fabric hugs your curves, but flares out from the knee down for easy dancing.) Look at this article about 1930s formal dress styles and this one on how to accessorize a 1930s evening dress. Shop for 1930s inspired evening gowns here.
- Add accessories: Long gloves in white or black with short or sleeveless dresses. A sparkling hair comb, clip or pin pulling back hair on one side. A small flat clutch evening purse. A fur stole or short faux fur jacket. A matching dress jacket or a large cape is an alternative to faux fur.
- Jewelry: A chunky bracelet in gold, pearl or gemstones. Pearl or bead necklace. Small earrings. Shop 30s style jewelry.
- Shoes: Silver, black or white strappy closed toe heels. Wear nude stockings with a backseam. Shop shoes.
- Hairstyles- Short curled hair swept away from the face. Or long curly locks draping down the back. A chignon bun at the nape of the neck is an easy hairstyle for straight haired ladies.
- Makeup. Exaggerated 1930s makeup with red lips, deep blush and very arched eyebrows. More about 1930s makeup.
1930s Party Dress
A 1930s party doesn’t have to be an all out glamorous affair. For a cocktail party or local dance, a 1930s cocktail length dress is a good outfit for a 1930s themed event.
- A midi length nice dress in a solid color or floral pattern with a modest neckline and hourglass fit. The skirt should flare a bit or be a slender pencil shape (but not tight.) Shop 1930s style dresses.
- Add a thin belt (fabric or leather with a unique belt buckle) placed just under the ribs/above the natural waist. A long ribbon bow is another quick belt that was popular in the mid 30s.
- Wear nude, grey or black backseam stockings with moderate closed toe heels. Mary Janes are a good choice. Shop 1930s shoes.
- Accessories could be mid length gloves, thin belt and small purse in a matching color or two different colors (ie purse and hat blue, belt and gloves in white)
- A hat is optional but always a nice accessory. 30s hats had small brims, shallow crowns and were worn at an angle. They are not easy to find. I often wear 1950s vintage hats in similar shapes. Here are some 30s style hats.
- Jewelry – Short, single strand bead or pearl necklace. Learn more about 1930s jewelry styles.
1930s Afternoon Tea Party
My all time favorite daytime 1930s outfit is the tea dress. A flowing floral midi or full length tea party dress is an excellent outfit to wear to a tea or garden party. I wore one recently to a Great Gatsby tea party along with my dear friends.
- Start with a light floral print dress with ruffles, flutter sleeves, tiered hemline, bows and draped pieces. Sheer or light fabrics are best. You can choose a solid fabric if you wish.
- Optional: Add a matching or white belt, sash or ribbon tie at the upper waistline to your 30s tea dress.
- Add a flower clip or two dress clips (matching brooch pins work just as well) to the neckline or shoulders.
- Wear a wide brim sun hat tilted at an angle. Optional lace parasol or handfan instead of a hat.
- Wear white gloves or a color that coordinates with another accessory.
- For footwear, a pair of white Mary janes, basic pumps or oxford shoes would be perfect. Stockings should be nude, light grey or white.
- Small button earrings or flowers and either a tennis bracelet or silver watch is the only jewelry you need for a 1930s tea party dress outfit.
Who doesn’t love a good 1930s classic film noir movie? Full of leading ladies, jilted lovers, and murdering mistresses the clothing is as iconic as the characters. Film noir outfits also make excellent 1930s murder mystery party costumes.
Filmed before technicolor, the silver screen was sophisticated in black and white, and so should your outfit.
- Choose a black skirt with white or ivory blouse. A black or white 30s style dress works well too. See more film noirs outfit ideas here.
- The hat is veiled to hide her mysterious eyes.
- The shoes could an adorable bow on the toe to maintain her innocent look.
- The handbag is big enough to hide any evidence (and your cell phone.)
- Black lace gloves and a black belt will tie the outfit together. Pearl jewelry would add more white.
- Red lips are important for all Film Noir costumes.
For vintage lovers, the everyday 30s look with a skirt and blouse or sweater top is practical, yet charming. Pairing separates can be a nice outfit for an informal 1930s party. But with the right blouse, it can read tastefully elegant enough for a tea or evening party.
- Find a midi length skirt, slim fit but not tight. A flared hem or gored panels is ideal. Shop 30s style skirts.
- Choose either a modest blouse (with ruffles, white collar, puff sleeves, flutter sleeves, etc) or a knit short sleeve sweater top like these.
- An optional layering would be a cute vintage cardigan sweater. Shop 30s sweaters.
- A casual layer could be a leather blazer jacket, a fitted ladies suit jacket, or a short bolero jacket. Shop 30s jackets.
- Choose lace up oxford shoes with a heel. Stockings or cuffed socks would be appropriate.
- Add a hat – a knit beret is trendy and casual. A small brim hat is fashionable all day. Shop 30s style hats.
- Choose any style of daytime jewelry you like. Learn more about 1930s jewelry.
- Additional accessories could be a neck scarf, short gloves, and small handbag,
Here are some outfits I have put together.
- The first is a take on Bonnie Parker’s outfit in her last know photograph. Gored skirt, chevon stripe cardigan, T strap shoes and a wig.
- The second is a thrifted outfit I found with gored skirt, bolero jack, a knit polo shirt, neck scarf, fedora hat, belt and oxford shoes.
Bloody Edith is one of the few 1930s reproduction clothing brands online. See all of their amazing 1930s clothes on Etsy.
I love this late 1930s/ early 1940s outfit with blouse, skirt, and perfectly coordinated accessories.
1930s Hollywood Starlet
The final outfit appropriate for the 1930s party in a pants outfit. Yippie! The 1930s was the first decade to embrace slacks for women.
Wide leg, high waisted, loose fitting pants / slacks / trousers were paired with cute polo shirts, fitted T-shirts, button down blouse shirts, and knit sweater shirts.
Women’s 1930s pants made for a casual outfit, not one to be seen at a tea party. Plenty of Hollywood Starlets were photographed wearing their summer pants at home, behind movie sets, and on vacation. By the 1940s it would become common place to see women wearing pants for most informal occasions.
For your 1930s outfit with pants try:
- Wide leg, high waist palazzo type pants (not denim jeans). Sailor buttons are very 30s as well as flat front loose slacks. Pants were only worn in summer so stick to white, beige or navy blue. Shop 30s pants.
- Pair pants with a silky blouse for a party friendly look. For casual outfits go for a striped T-shirt or soft polo shirt. Shop 1930s tops and shirts.
- Strappy flat sandals or two tone (brown and white) oxfords or low heels. Shop 30s shoes.
- Round white frame sunglasses. See more about 1930s eyewear.
- Optional white sun visor or a headscarf for very casual outfits. A wide sun hat for party outfits.
Similar to casual pants in the 1930s were wide leg Beach Pajamas. 1930s Beach pajamas could be a jumpsuit or separate palazzo pants and loose top. They looking like 1930s sleeping pajamas but came with extra wide legs, fun colors or nautical themes. Wearing beach pajamas will make you feel both silly and very comfortable.
For a 1930s beach pajama outfit:
- Sew your own beach pajamas with a pattern, buy a reproduction beach pajama set, pair wide leg palazzo pants with a loose V neck top or find a extra wide leg jumpsuit. Shop 1930s beach pajamas.
- Wear a very wide sun hat
- 1930s style sunglasses (round, white, plastic frame)
- For shoes, try a pair of huarache or espadrille flat sandals. Shop sandals.
Here is my beach pajama outfit from House of Foxy (only sold in the spring/summer)
More 1930s Outfits
These few outfits are just the beginning of all the 1930s clothing you can wear to a party. I have a few more articles with even more 1930s outfit ideas for you to explore.
- 1930s Outfit Inspiration – Outfit ideas from 1930s clothing brands online
- 1930s Outfit Ideas | Autumn, Winter, Spring Inspiration – Clothing ideas for all seasons
- 30s Outfits, Ideas for Women – A mix of dressy and casual outfits
- Vintage Hiking and Camping Clothes – Ideas for outdoor outfits
- 1920s Casual Outfits with Pants for Women – Some 1930s ideas too such as gangster girl and menswear styles
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.