Retro Revival: 1930s Style Infiltrates Fall 2012 Runway Shows

If glamour were grammar, the 1930s would have been the era that crossed all its T’s and dotted all its I’s. It seems today’s designers have a soft spot for these sharp, svelte styles, because one could espy ’30s influences popping up nonstop as models walked down New York Fashion Week’s runways; you might be surprised to see exactly which daring details we’re talking about!

Images via Flickr user Carbonated and

Stunning, Low-Cut Backs — It may seem hard to believe that skin-flaunting, open-back gowns were worn in the prim and proper past, but a quick look at this 1930’s photo of movie star Myrna Loy proves that frocks such as this stunning Tadashi Shoji one looked to the high glamour of days gone by as inspiration for their low-cut backs.

Images via Etsy seller PrettyPatternShop and

Diamond Detailing — See this 1931 Vogue sewing patten? See J. Mendel’s slinky evening number? Interesting similarities, aren’t there, especially when it comes to the unique diamond detailing at the hips. Looks like Mendel’s delving into the history books for inspiration.

Images via Flickr user Nurse_marbles and

Hooded Maxi Dresses — If you thought the maxi-plus-hood dream team seen in Mara Hoffman’s sophisticated creation at right is modern to the max, prepare for a little mind-bending. Hooded maxis actually have roots in the 1930s, as exemplified by the ad at left.

Images via Wehadfacesthen and

Bias Cut Gowns – L’Wren Scott’s sumptuous raven dress is carefully cut on the bias. This clothing construction technique was the sweetheart of 1930s style, as seen in this photo of Jean Harlow.

Have you spotted any other historic influences trotting down the runways this year?


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  1. Avatar
    ModCloth 03/02/2012 at 10:26 am #

    awesome post gals – gave me some “dream candy” to get thru my day. Happy Friday!

  2. Avatar
    daintygirltoronto 03/02/2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Love it! Vintage art deco styles have always appealed to me. Huge fan of beading, drop waists and a little fringe every now and then! Low backs are incredibly sexy!

    Dainty Girl

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    Jenny 03/02/2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Do you think it’s inspired by the movie – the artist? Great post btw

    • Avatar
      Hannah (ModCloth) 03/02/2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks! Glad you liked the post :-).

      I’m pretty sure runway collections are planned ages in advance (though, that’s just a supposition, really), so maybe the 1920s and 1930s are just seeping their way into the general zeitgeist.

      An interesting thought, though, Jenny, and I wonder if anyone may have a better answer to it than I.

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    NSP 03/02/2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Nice work! But that’s Jean Harlow in the vintage bias photo, not Loretta Young.

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    Kate Z. (ModCloth) 03/02/2012 at 11:20 pm #

    I was also noticing it in the spring 2012 shows! Loving that the 1930s are coming back. And these photo pairings are excellent! 🙂

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    jeanne 03/03/2012 at 8:24 am #

    looovvveee Jean Harlow! Why can’t I find any simple, elegant and gorgeous dresses with amazing cuts like the ones she wore?!

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    Eliza 03/03/2012 at 1:58 pm #

    To me, 1930s styles were always so effortless. I have tons of bias-cut tops and dresses, and they are my favorite things. These days, runway shows often have unrealistic, garish styles. This is why I love the shows you display, Moddies, because they are beautiful and wearable. The Tracy Reese show is my absolute favorite.

    Love love love love the hooded maxi. Might just try that.


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    Daughter Earth 03/03/2012 at 4:35 pm #

    great post! love the image comparisons. great vintage photographs.

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    Bgo 03/04/2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Oh, what a wonderfull dresses!!! I´m in love with 30′ style… so elegant vintage.

    La ventana de Gogo

  10. Avatar
    BethNicole 03/15/2012 at 2:30 am #

    Love this post and I am in love with the Fall 2012 collections. All those dresses are amazing!!! I’ll have to search around ModCloth to see if I can’t find any similar dresses for sale.

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