There are tentative signs here in Oxford that spring is springing. Snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses are all out. Hurrah! The urge has struck to clean heavy woolly sweaters and mittens, wrap them in plastic no moth can chew through and stow them for next winter. (I realise that’s probably the fastest way to ensure it snows next week- apologies in advance.)
All this springiness takes me back to the early 1930s, for if ever I was asked what era of clothes would be most appropriate for cuddling lambs and skipping through fields of bluebells, I’d pick the 1930s, the decade that put “pretty” back on the map.
There was something about the soft innocence of 1930s fashion that really suited spring, after the jaunty exuberance of the 20s and before the stronger more assertive 1940s. These pen sketches above and right from March 1935 USA Vogue really capture the essence of this fresh feminine look.
Floral prints took off in the 30s after the bold geometrics and stylized graphics of the 20s. The flowers themselves were often tiny subtle sprigs rather than ostentatious blooms. Even the very lines of clothing softened into sinuousness with blowsy sleeves and flowing drapery.
The spring/summer colour palette was full of pastels, with lots of soothing cool white thrown in (which must have been a nightmare to keep clean):
But the downside of all this fresh pastel floweriness was that when overindulged in, it became twee. Some aspects of the 30s attachment to pretty probably looked dreadful on anyone over the age of 14, like the worrying resurgence of ruffles and use of sheer fabrics to add volume. Yards and yards of sheer tulle and organza and chiffon took pretty into china doll territory.
Right, time to liberate my spring clothes from storage!