Tuesday, February 28, 2012

28 February 1933 “Shoes: The Latest and the Most Lasting and Fewer Clothes but More Style”

arpelshoe1 These very futuristic shoes are from the 1930’s, designed by Steven Arpad. The forward thinking designer played with many styles and ideas that seem ultra modern even today.

arpadshoe3 I like the tongue in cheek of the ram heel of this pair.arpadshoe4 The Lucite heel of these are reminiscent of ice cubes in a modern cocktail.arpadshoe5 These look like a shoe a modern Pop Glam star would sport.

arpadshoe2 Most of these were made for the fashion house of Balenciaga through the 1930s. Such shoes would certainly be worn by very few. Even among those wealthy enough to own such shoes would have to be the adventurous type who would want the latest. These were for the very latest and modern take on fashion.

shoead Of course most ladies, particularly in the early 30’s, as here in 1933, would still be wearing their serviceable late 20’s shoes. In fact, these advertised here in 1920, would be appropriate for the Edwardian Period right through the 1930’s. It shows, certainly, the pace at which shoe design changed. Here we see looks that have a multi-decade sensibility yet lovely style and look.

 edwardiandressesphoto They would have looked adorable when they peeked out for just a glimpse under a long floor length hem of an Edwardian dress.  


WWIcouple They would have been very similar to those accompanying the ankle length looks of the First World War.

 1925 They would have been even on the most modern and daring looks of the shocking above the knee length of 1925.

30sshoead30sfashion 30sfashion230sfashion3 And such shoes would look right with the longer skirts and return of the waist of the 1930s.  That’s quite a bit of wear out of shoes. And of course these shoes were made to last and leather soles were always redone. The cobbler was in every town and happily repaired and re-soled shoes. Today, of course, we see many shoes, even those supposedly ‘well made’ really just shabbily stitched and soon to fall apart. Things are definitely not made to last in the same way.

It is interesting to me to think that ladies of the time, though they had easily a quarter of the clothes and shoes we have today, looked more put together and smart. In old photos, even gardening or casual family shots, men in ties, ladies in dresses and such shoes as these. And, most likely, their wardrobes were really very sparse. Yet what they did have was stylish, well made, and easily accessorized. Today we throw out clothing and have piles of the stuff clogging up closest, bureaus, armoires. We have the need to run our laundry machines every day and yet, when it comes right down to it, how much style is there really in the day to day? White and bright colored tennis shoes, jeans jeans, and more jeans, leggings, and t-shirts seem to be all most people wear. How can we all look so sloppy and yet have so many more things?

One of the main side affects I have found since living in the past is the vast reduction in things. I did not set out to reduce my garbage or my wardrobe. It simply happened. I have less clothing, so less laundry easier to maintain, yet almost always get compliments on my outfits. Surely I will wear the same skirt more than once in a week, but one day it is topped with a blouse and the next worn with a collared shirt, scarf tied as a tie and a sweater vest (I am really loving the men suit inspired looks of the 1930’s).

Now, I only do my laundry one day a week and so washing every day isn’t really an option. If I had children this might be different, yet at the time, wash day was often one day a week. And the children would have far less clothing as well. I think dirt on play clothes would have been overlooked more than today, because if they were then to go into town, little Bobby or Susie would put on their better school clothes. And the messiness of food was not the same in that children more often than not ate at the table. There was no wandering about the living room with handfuls of chips or dripping peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as they mindlessly stared at the TV screen. Surely, there was mess, but one had a napkin tucked into the shirt and even older children often wore a sort of bib at the table for luncheon or dinner, to protect the clothes. And you were to focus on what you were doing, eating, and not eating as a secondary act to accompany watching the tele.

poorchildreneating Even the very poor often ate at table. Despite this family having very little, the children, most likely in their only clothes other than one nice set set aside for Church and school, are enjoying their repast at the table. The littlest is standing up on a crate, but still at the table.30sfamilyeating This family seems to have very little and are most likely poorer farmers or city dwellers, but the whole family shares their meal at the table, mimicking mum and dad and trying not to make too much a mess.

workingclassfamily A working class family shares a meal at table. Mother’s outfit protected by her pinny while Father shows little Johnny how to use his silverware.

depressioneating Even those hit very hard by the Depression and having to share their homes and meal with extended family and neighbors still gathered at table. Here the table almost serves as an alter, as it is far too small to be used by the vast majority of the diners, but all gather together in the act of eating. Even in this photo of obviously hard times, notice how the ladies hair is done, girls in skirts and dresses. The act of normalcy or the importance of gathering together, even when there was little to eat, was important. It is sad that TV and Computers in many ways has taken this away from family and friends in day to day life.

In a middle class household, however, you would most assuredly been at the table with a napkin on your lap. You would have been expected to wash and dress for dinner as well. Not the black tie evening dress of the upper class, but possibly a clean sweater/jumper for son and simply taking off your apron for little Sis and mum and some lipstick and comb in the hair.  And in the upper middle and upper classes, well into the 1930’s, children often ate their evening meal in the nursery with nanny so they were certain to eat properly at a table with a stern eye watching their table manners.

If you were enjoying a treat it would be on the back steps by the kitchen or away from the nice furniture in house. And most likely you would never have food in many rooms, such as bedrooms and the nicer living room used for company.

This odd tangent from shoes to children's clothing does have a point of sorts. It is this: Less but better makes one’s life easier and more cost effective.

I will not and try not to ever give advice to people with children. I have none of my own and would never presume to give advice. There is probably no job harder nor more challenging than being a Mother. But, because of that very fact, maybe less clothing for lil Bobby or Susie would make some of the day easier? Maybe less clothing but specific to purpose, such as play dungarees and a few t-shirts for play, two pair of nice trousers for school and church with a few dress shirts, would be all is needed. And a good bib and apron for eating, even for an older child, and more eating at the table rather than eating while walking about or in rooms such as the living room. I don’t know, as I said, I know it must be incredibly hard with children. I only know that were I to have a child I think that would be at least how I would like to plan it. Of course, planning is often upset and it is easy to buy cheap clothing for a few dollars at places like Old Navy, but why make more work for oneself? And even for adults, less clothing more stylish means less money spent, less laundry and less repairs needed. And a good solid apron for working around the house and grabbing your quick lunch at the kitchen table.

This, then, is true of shoes. If you have styles you like from a specific period, than buy a few pair of well made shoes that can be re-soled in leather at a cobblers and they will last forever. They will also be stylish. I am not sure when the endless need for ‘sports shoes’ in everyday life first arrived, but it does baffle me now that I wear vintage or vintage inspired shoes. Am I uncomfortable when I shop or walk? No. Even when I exercise I simply wear flats or simply no shoes at all, when I am in the house. If one is running and playing tennis, surely your shoes should reflect that, but I think it is funny how there are little sports shoes for babies who cannot even walk? In the past, children wore a very similar leather lace up shoe for most of their childhood, one pair. And these often were resoled and passed down. I have a pair of shoes that my husband wore as a baby that were his great-grandfathers. These now act as decoration in our house, but had we a child, you can bet he’d wear them until he grew out of them.

I am finding that less with more style is simply a better way to live, at least for my little family. And as we live in an age where one can also easily get the old quality of the past by simply buying the actual antiques locally or online, we have little excuse not to surround ourselves with less things that work better, use less power and last longer. I think in today’s fast paced world of two income parents, less to own, less to clean would make the limited time families have together more joyful.

What other ways can we reduce and make do with less?

Happy Homemaking.


  1. finally! Someone who thinks like I do. I loath todays "styles". And the quality is unbelivable. Add unreal prices and there you have it. I wish people today would take a little pride in how they dress, like in the 30's and 40's. I actually miss a period in time that was before my time. Keep up the great work.
    P.S. The picture of the little children eating at a make-shift table made me cry. I read in another article they were eating their Christmas meal.

  2. One thing I constantly lament is the lack of shoe repair places. I have a pair of boots purchased in 1995 and due to maintenance they are still in excellent condition. My husband and I both believe in caring and maintaining our good shoes. When we lived in a more urban area we drove 30 minutes to an excellent cobbler. Now in a semi-rural area it has been near impossible. I have finally found one, but the area is moneyed so I dread what the cost will be, but in the end it will be worth it.
    On a side note, a farmer friend and I had a discussion once about how we need certain trades taught and encouraged in the schools. Seamstress, butcher, cobbler and other useful and necessary skills. Not everyone throws things away nor do they all want to work on Wall Street.
    Keep up the excellent posts.

    1. "Seamstress, butcher, cobbler and other useful and necessary skills."
      Few people have useful and necessary skills. Schools do not teach them. Instead,they have eliminated them! They will not be coming back.(I was a public educator and my sibling taught in a Vo-Tec school.) With my husband's and my large skill base, we have, over the years, been less of a slave to merchandise and spending. It allowed us a greater use of our financial resources. We taught these skills to our children who value and appreciate them. Unfortunately, most of our in-law children are unskilled. It is a very sad legacy for my grandchildren.

  3. I often think if my kids had fewer clothes laundry would be easier! As it is they grow so quickly I sometimes feel they don't even wear the things they have very much. I've recently been getting mine, both boys, into the habit of changing into their grubbiest clothing at the end of each school day before they go to play. Also, you reminded me of something I saw on tv---that in a lot of school systems the children are not even allowed to have a knife and fork to eat their lunch with! I've often wonder what we are coming to by giving the kids all the finger food and sippy cups.

  4. Loved your article as usual, Donna. We have 4 children, love several vintage eras, and how we raise our children is reflected by that. I don't dress totally vintage, but I was greatly influenced by both my Grandmothers and I think my wardrobe relects that. We homeschool, read old books and our kids watch some of the TV shows on DVD that we grew up with. I'd love to sew and can, but with 2 , 3yr old twin boys underfoot, I'm putting that off til a later season in life. We tend to dress more formally than most, but I admit to owning a few grungy tshirts that I wear when the kids are sick, and I wear crocs as yard shoes to save wear and tear on my nicer ones. I love dressing our children up, but in the potty training stage the reality of life is lots of Tshirts and cloth training pants. I used to say to my parents how cute the children were dressed in the old photos- I asked how they kept them so nice in the potty training years- the answer? Around the house, on the farm, the toddlers were often naked!
    One of my Great-grandfathers was a cobbler during the Depression- he probably had the most prosperous business in town at the time!

  5. I grew up in the the 1970's and early 80's, and I had play clothes and school/church clothes. We had tennis shoes and "good shoes". Because of this, much of our clothes were timeless and classical. My clothing choices still reflect these ideals from my upbringing.

    As a former teacher, very few children had what some consider "play clothes". The clothes carried heavy price tags and were often dismissed if they give off the slightest appearance of being worn or tattered. I would see perfectly fine sweatshirts and T shirts thrown into the trash can! As for me, I would darn my socks and stitch closed holes in my clothes.

    My sister is the mother of three little ones, and with their growth spurts, she keeps them properly clothed by buying used children's clothing at garage and yard sales which are a bargain. As soon as other children outgrow them or look for other styles, the clothing goes up for sale. My sister makes accurate guesses about the sizes her kids will be a season or two in advance, so she thinks with growth in mind. My nieces and nephew are smartly dressed, and no one would ever guess that almost their entire wardrobes are from barely used clothing.

  6. Yes as mentioned we changed out of our school clothes and into play clothes as soon as we got home from school. The school clothes were hung up if still fresh and clean to be worn again. Since we played outside and did make mud pies and all the other fun stuff of childhood play clothes were really used! Even so they were repaired if they got torn too. Our school and Sunday clothes were basic styles and timelessly classic. Women usually had extra collars and scarfs and such to change out a plain over the head sweater or dress to look different. The often piquet collar could be washed separately. Accessories were used and less clothing needed to seem like you had more clothes. We were taught to buy the best made clothes we could afford as we would have them for years. Better made clothes did not sag or pill or the colors fade like poorly made clothes. My Mother taught us to go to a very good department store and try on better clothes. While in the dressing room look the clothes all over to see why they are better. How were they made? ..Usually a better tight style wool skirt had a full lining and hand stitched zipper for two things. We sewed and did likewise with our sewing copying the better technics. Yes people now have so many shoes and since they have so many do not seem to keep them up. How many people polish their shoes anymore? How many people even wear real leather shoes! ? I do. Even now when we are retired we have town clothes and at home clothes which we again call our play clothes. :) If we are staying home and working around the house we wear our play clothes. I cannot even imagine that now sitting at a table together to eat our meals is an oddity! :) Yes it is good for the clothes and the family unity too. And after supper you had aprons to wear when doing the dishes or sweeping and doing other after supper chores. Boys would have ready made knee patches inside their slacks or patches put on when a hole started. It was not thought of anything bad for a boy to have a big patch on his knee. Bad would have been a hole in the knee showing the parents did not care how the child looked. Also men and boys wore undershirts and girls also sleeveless undershirts . Women had slips..usually full length slips. Beautiful slips I might add. You might see a women in a plain yet well cut dress but her slip may be very full of lace inserting and embroidery. Women's clothing then had lots of little touches to make them individual. Tucks, inserts, different collars and special touches at the arms etc...pretty buttons and ribbons or embroidery . Not the tube like slouchy style dresses you see now out of t-shirt material or cheap cottons. There seems little detail now in women's clothing. Yes they had less clothing but treated what they had with care. They washed , ironed, starched and when needed used blueing and such too. They would not just wash their clothes and put it on and go. You checked in a mirror to see if there was any lint on your shoulders or to put a pretty hankie in your pocket to peek out making that suit more feminine. Checked that your hat was straight and your gloves spotlessly clean. Even your hand bag was polished or cleaned with leather cleaner. They took care. I remember. Thank you so much for treating us to your studies. I really love reading all you find out and share with us. Sarah.

  7. I thought you all might like this article: http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2011/the-history-of-a-cheap-dress/.

    It says that in 1930, women had an average of nine outfits. That's certainly different!

  8. An interesting thought provoking post as usual.
    Happy to say we (7 of us) eat at the table every night, and each morning as well (sometimes out on the deck)- and it is set with a cloth, glass jug of water, and napkins for dinner. Although my elest (18) occasisonly whinges about eating with the little kids (twin 6s), we have great discussions and everyone is kept in the loop about whats happening. The little ones also get picked on by the elders if they're table manners aren't up to scratch. And the mess stays in one place.
    I love the wardrobe ideas (great images) - I am trying to build a 1940s style wardrobe, and find I am getting less but better items as I go (the one's I don't need are ebayed), and appreciating it all more.
    Thanks again, deb xxx

  9. My hear flutters everytime you post. Keep it coming love :)

  10. I think you would look fantastic in those long skirts/dresses with the suit jacket. I bet we'd all love it if you posted more pictures of your adorable outfits. Give us a lesson in how stretch our wardrobe by mixing and matching?

  11. When I was attending school in the late 50s and early 60s, I had "school clothes" and "play clothes" and "dress clothes". Not a lot of any category, but I knew to change my school clothes every day upon arriving home. Shoes were the same. Because my mother sewed, I grew up knowing the difference in good-quality clothing and cheaply made garments. That was a great lesson when I began buying my own clothing.

    I remember so many ladies had specific "outfits" for specific occasions when I was growing up. A lady might wear her navy blue dress and shoes for church, but she would change her hat, gloves, and scarf or jewelry to suit the season. Her dresss was the nicest she could afford, her shoes the same. Some ladies worse black, some dark gray, and of course in spring and summer, we had white, off white or cream, and tan/beige. Now we think of them as "basics" and usually equate them with "boring". Our mothers and grandmothers didn't think so. Perhaps we could learn a lesson here.



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