With the Bentley in France and Switzerland (1939)
With the Bentley in France and Switzerland (1939)

Despite the economic gloom of the Great Depression, the 1930s was a glamorous era for fashion, influenced by Parisian and increasingly London couture, sportswear from Europe and America and spectacular styles popularised by Hollywood.

Film was a form of escape for all social classes and picture houses proliferated in this period. The 1930s are known as the golden age of Hollywood, when stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Carole Lombard became style icons.

Improved methods of manufacturing and mass production techniques meant that well-made clothes became available to a wider range of people.
Stores such as Debenhams and Montague Burton marketed to the rising British middle class, offering quality clothing at affordable prices.

Home dressmaking was still popular, aided by the reduction in price of sewing machines. This meant that even working-class households could own one. The simpler cut fashions also made home dressmaking easier. Since exact tailoring was no longer required, and women’s magazines such as ‘Weldon’s’ often featured sewing patterns of the latest fashions, it was possible to create fashionable homemade ensembles.


The Screen Archive South East has a variety of films from the 1930s ranging from records of travel trips, holidays and private events such as weddings and children’s birthday parties. A large proportion of the films in this collection, including many of the clips selected for this theme, feature middle class people in fashionable attire. Whilst it is not possible to determine where they acquired their clothing, it is obvious that these people were highly fashion conscious. This indicates a close relationship between middle class English fashions and prevailing trends at the time.

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