Like other aspects of fashion in the 1930s, hairstyles swung the opposite direction that they took in the 1920s. They styles of the 1920s had two distinctive characteristics. They were bold, flamboyant and “sinful”. And because the 1920s saw the beginnings of the movement to assert woman’s rights, clothing and hairstyles for women were predominantly androgynous. It’s a paradox that in a decade that was laying the groundwork for the equality of women, fashion dictated that women and men come to look more and more alike.
When the 1930s came around, women were ready to go back to a feminine look and to stop looking like a boy and suppressing the natural beauty of the body. This fashion approach was reflected in 1930s woman’s clothing, which began to show off the bust line and the natural curve of the woman’s body. Even hats that used to hide the woman’s beauty that were the style in the 1920s went by the wayside in the 1930s in favor of women’s hats that framed the face and showed it off.
Many of the 1930s hairstyles that became very popular were introduced by the big movie stars of the day such as Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, June Allyson and many more. Not only did Hollywood royalty wear the finest of gowns and eveningwear, they had modern 1930s hairstyles to accentuate the new femininity that was becoming the fashion of the time.
Early in the 1930s decade, woman’s hairstyles were still close to the head and made feminine with finger waves. This reflected the transition from the 1920s styles. Then beginning in 1932, women’s hairstyles became more lush and girlish. Not only was more styling done with the hair, it began to take on more shape and a life of its own. Then almost overnight it seemed, 1930s hairstyles for women became lush and full and very wavy to keep up with what women in Hollywood were modeling on the big screen. When you add in that for women, hats were in style to coordinate beautifully these new and very feminine 1930s hairstyles.
By the middle of the decades, 1930s hairstyles began to diversify significantly. But one unifying principle always held true in any 1930s woman’s hairstyle. Whatever the style, it had to preserve the waves that were part of the perm. With this one stipulation, hair stylists in the 1930s were able to create a vast diversity of hairstyles that 1930s women could proudly show off in public. Many times the primary bulk of the hairstyle consisted of conventional waves but smaller curls were created around the parameter of the hairstyle. When women used such a style and then offset the entire look with a stylish hat, they were in high fashion by 1930s standards.
Women became proficient at creating these curls and waves at home, which fit with the mood of self-sufficiency and austerity in the country after the big 1929 stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s. It took some practice to learn to wrap the hair around one or two fingers or around some larger cylindrical object so create the right curl or wave to fit with the total hairstyle design. But once that skill was conquered, women could use their own creativity to put together a 1930s hairstyle that looked just like their favorite Hollywood starlet or to create something new and completely original as well.
The 1930s era of woman’s fashion was a good time for fashion designers and for consumers as well. Because the style of the 1930s was to accentuate and show off the femininity of the women but to do so in a classy way, the hairstyle became the crowning pride of many women that made whatever they wore look great. And because these hairstyles could often be created at home, this gave women an outlet to look beautiful and stylish in a decade when the economic times made luxuries scarce to be sure.
In that way, the 1930s hairstyle fashions helped the country pull through a tough period in history by providing women a way to feel good about themselves and for men to see beauty all around them. That kind of morale boost may have played a significant role in the nation’s recovery from the many economical calamities it had endured throughout the 1920s and 1930s.