May 3, 2011

Cool, sheer and colorful 1930s spring fashions

Day 123 of Vintage 365


From the pages of the spring/summer 1938 Sear & Roebuck catalog comes a selection of the most delightfully pretty late 1930s women's fashions I've encountered in a long time. These cheerful, terrifically elegant dresses - airy as spun sugar - are paired with equally chic, wonderfully sprightly hats that help set the whole mood of these highly feminine outfits.

{Vintage 1930s Sears catalog page via juffrouwig on Flickr.}


I look at these three beautiful young women and I'm suddenly struck with the intense desire to transport back in time seventy three years. While 1920s and early 30s styles can be hard for me to pull off (thanks to my petite, hourglass figure that definitely does not jive well with most flapper era fashions), as the thirties rolled onward women's fashions began to change and return to more structured, tailored styles, some of which, do work for me.

These three styles seem to bridge the gap between the early 30s and war years of the 40s perfectly. They're streamlined, but still somewhat billowy and carefree; ripe with wonderfully lovely details such as ruffled collars, ribbon sash belts, and sheer fabric overlays. Two sport polka dots (which on the darling red dress are in the shape of little hearts, to boot!), and the third is a timelessly beautiful floral print that looks as though a stunning May garden has come to life on a short-sleeved springtime frock.

I would wear anyone of these looks, but am perhaps most in love with floral dress that boasts a jolly corsage-like detail in the centre of the neckline. I go weak in the knee for vintage dresses with flowers on them and would adore the chance to wear this thoroughly wonderful 1930s number.

All three looks are works of art unto themselves though, each so agelessly appealing and, I think, also rather easy to wear. While it might be quite tricky to track down these exact dresses today, similar styles can still be found online (etsy shop, Adeline’s Attic, which features an expertly curated array of vintage pieces, is one of my absolute favourite sources of great 1930s fashions) and at second hand stores that stock clothing from the thirties.

This May, why not draw inspiration, as I certainly am, from this vintage Sears catalog page to help ensure that you look every bit as lovely - and springtime worthy - today as these ladies did seven decades ago.


  1. The images are gorgeous. Such style. We're seeing lots of hate here in Kentucky as Derby approaches. If you go back in time, bring back enough to share!

  2. So cute, and I really, truly understand your saying about the 20's to 30's silhouette being difficult for anyone with an hourglass shape, I've always found the 30's to 40's much more suitable to myself. I just love the red dress with the hearty polkadots, though, as you say, would gladly wear any one of these. :)


  3. ...and they're all wearing hats! How I miss hats. I'm very intrigued by the little fascinators that are popular right now. I love the net on these ladies' hats.

  4. Wow, what gorgeous dresses, especially that navy blue, sheer one of the left. I love some of the beautiful ways sheer fabric is used in fashion. 1930s fashion is so pretty, but being short like yourself, and also an hourglass this is not the era of vintage fashion that favors my body type! I still love to look at it though :)

  5. Oh I love the one on the left!!
    Hope you are well Jessica

  6. What a delightful image! I was transported. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get away with wearing a frilly dress and a hat with a veil everyday?

  7. OOOOh what pretty dresses! I adore the dress silhouettes of the 30's. More shaped than the 20's (as pretty as they are, I couldn't wear a flapper dress without looking pregnant)and not as structured or short as the 40's. I don't know if I could pick a favorite. Did I see those prices correctly? $3.98 and $4.98 for a dress!!? You couldn't make a dress for that price these days! Thanks so much for sharing, love your blog!

  8. Gorgeous. When l first got into vintage l couldn't pinpoint the thirties 'look' but l love it now.

  9. Hi everyone, Blogger just gave me an error message when I tried to approve a comment from a dear friend and reader, Patti, and is now telling me that the comment doesn't exist any more. However I have Patti's text in the notification of a new comment email I received, so here is what she said:

    Okay, so tell me again why women have chosen to throw away dressing like this in order to wear jeans and T-shirts? I definitely don't understand!!

    All these dresses are beautiful, but, like you, I like the floral one the best, mostly because I like the slightly lower neckline.

    I've pinned this to my "Oh, so vintage" board. It's a total love!!!