The thirties were a turbulent, yet supremely elegant decade. With the great stock market crash of 1929, the ostentatious fashions of the twenties seemed unsuitable for troubled times. Dresses became simpler, longer and plainer, yet the bias cut technique used by so many couturiers of the decade made the silhouettes luxurious and feminine. Surrealism also had a profound impact on fashion, and couturiers like Elsa Schiaparelli brought whimsy and dreams to dressing. Finally, Hollywood presented the world with glamorous actresses in magnificent dresses to take the public's mind off the Great Depression. Here are three thirties legends that wore their clothes with flair.
1. Marlene Dietrich
German born actress Marlene Dietrich is perhaps the most famous film actress of all time. With her sensual looks, perfect skin, and elegant posturing, Dietrich oozed glamour from every pore. Throughout her career, she used fashion to reinvent herself (in much the same way Madonna does today). A true style leader, she once said, "I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for the fashion, not for men." Marlene is best rememered for her love of menswear, her sexiness, and for always wanting to be lit from above to best show off her exotic features.
2. Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
American divorcee first came onto the scene as the Prince of Wales mistress in the early years of the decade. Of a questionable and often scandalous past, Simpson was the source of endless gossip and displeasure in the London press. Wallis was not a conventional beauty, nor a lady, yet she used the severe and simple silhouettes of American couturier Mainbocher to appear polished, sophisticated and refined. She was glamorous, and with the equally fashionable Prince of Wales, she achieved notoriety as a rigorous fashion icon for the rest of her life.
3. Daisy Fellowes
American socialite Daisy Fellowes wore many hats, among them working as editor-in-chief for French Harper's Bazaar, and being an heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune. She spent a great deal of time in Paris in the thirties, and became close friends with many of the Surrealist artists. Fellowes was bony, tall, pale and angular; one of the Surrealists once described her as "...an exquisite skeleton..." She was a friend and important patron of Elsa Schiaparelli, and wore many of her most daring creations (including the famous Skeleton Dress).