Despite the Depression, fashion in the '30s maintained a beauty and glamor promoted to a large extent by Hollywood. In the first half of the decade, plunging backs, bias-cut draping, and clinging fabrics transformed the androgynous silhouette of the '20s into a new body-conscious,
feminine line epitomized by the on- and off-screen clothing of international stars such as Jean Harlow, Carol Lombard, and Claudette Colbert. The Paris couturiers Madeleine Vionnet and Mme. Alix Grès were known for their inventive use of diagonally cut jerseys and shiny satins,
although the technique was popular with all designers of the period.
As the decade progressed, however, clothing gradually became more tailored. As early as 1931, Elsa Schiaparelli extended the shoulder line to give a "masculine" narrowness to the hips and waist. Other designers, particularly in film, eventually followed. Padded shoulders (sometimes with the addition of military-style epaulets) increased in popularity in the latter part of the decade to become the hallmark of the next. New styles included the dinner suit, consisting of a long dress and short jacket for the theater, dinner, or dancing. The "little black dress" was fashionable from the afternoon to the coctail hour for the latter worn with a small feather or a beaded hat.
At the end of the '30s, in an atmosphere of uncertainty about the future, many fashion designers ransacked the past for ideas: the bustle of the 1880s, the leg-o-mutton sleeve of the 1890s, and the high-waisted neoclassicism of the early nineteenth century. Yet, overall, perhaps in response to current events - the Spanish Civil War, the rise of Fascism in Europe, and Hitler's invasion of Poland - sobriety and restraint characterized late-'30s fashion. As the threat of war loomed, the sensuous curves of the early part of the decade were replaced by a structured masculinity.