While the roaring 20s involved loud dresses and accessories and hence consisted of detailed decoration and elaborate hemlines and patterns, the depression in the 1930s had a huge effect on 1930s women fashion. Since decorative elements and trims cost money, designers instead turned to build details with buttons, seams, and decorative stitching. This is because the showy and colorful buttons and stitching were an inexpensive way to give out of season frock a fresh look and avoid paying extra for new frocks. Buttons were mainly made of Bakelite, metal, wood, glass, celluloid, and porcelain. Therefore, while the 20s had been all about being loud and drawing attention, 30s style dresses were the embodiment of less is more. This could be seen in the simpler fabrics which were longer wearing and machine stitching.
Machine Sewing and Reuse
Due to the Great Depression, families had little or no money to buy new fabric and hence this led to making clothes out of long-wearing materials. In fact, the President at the time, Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration which employed women in sewing projects for hospitals, etc. Thus birthed the era of machine stitching where many women were taught how to use sewing machines. Old clothing could be remade into new pieces for clothing and it became the norm to see the 1930s style dress made of different fabrics. In fact, buttons were never thrown away and they would always find uses.
Then came the feed sack dresses. Thrifty tailors turned to sacks to make dressed and printed sacks were reused to alleviate the fabric-starved era. This continued way into the World War II years up to the early 60s. The flour bags and feed sack dresses became everyday wear and embellished dresses became a thing of the past. When flour companies saw this, they started packing flour and feed into sacks that had bright and colorful patterns and designs with labels that used washable ink to make it easier and more pleasing when the sacks would be turned into clothes.
Another thing that rose in popularity was scrap quilting. The Great Depression definitely had everyone unwilling to waste fabric and hence quilters and tailors used fabric scraps that remained from dressmaking and were too small to produce another dress to create warm bedding while acting as home decor. Popular quilt patterns were those that played with color and designs such as the Dresden plate, bow tie quilt block, and churn dash design.
As mentioned, thrifty sewing was the norm in the 30s. Adult clothing was often recut to make clothing for children. To save on decoration, lace and trims were cut from outgrown or shabby clothes to be reused. On the other hand, thread from letting out hems to give the clothes longer use was rewound on the spools to be reused! Fashion designers and tailors began to lengthen the hemlines for simple elegance and popularized bias-cut gowns especially with the Hollywood elite.