Saturday, 27 June 2009

Depression Years - Dressing the Part (5)

The trend toward more liberating fashions in the 1920s suffered a setback as America entered the Great Depression. Society could no longer support a carefree, gay attitude. The nation was suddenly thrown into a state of confusion, grief, and anxiety. Americans, confronted by the dejected state of the country, turned to Hollywood for comforting images of wealth and leisure. Romance and traditional femininity reigned as female stars donned glamorous, full-length gowns of luxurious fabrics. On the whole, women’s hemlines lowered through the 1930s signaling a general reversion from the freedom of short skirts.

No longer was the assertive, sexually aggressive woman acceptable. Instead, women were expected to re-feminize themselves, with curves and curls, in order to restore what some saw as man’s "shaken masculine pride." In Hollywood films of this era, femme fatales Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were inevitably overcome by strong, confident men. A majority of society felt that women’s place was in the home and not competing for jobs alongside men. By 1931 several states, cities, and school boards legislated against the employment of women. The fashion industry reinforced this conservatism when it attempted to re-introduce and re-popularize the corset, the bustle, and the hoop skirt.

Yet women continued to be active and the mid-calf length dresses of the 1930s were still far more liberating than restrictive Victorian garments. These women were active individually, not collectively. They pursued lives of "activism without feminism," dressing practically, but without making the bold claims to independence they had in the decade before. The era called for a femininity which would stabilize rather than threaten the already shaken country.


***Fonte de informacao.: PBS

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