What would the wardrobe of a working woman in the 1930s have looked like?
Perhaps not as glamorous as that portrayed on the Silver Screen. Not everyone could afford the stylish looks of Adrian and Edith Head.
I was interested to come across a section in the book ‘Clothing’ (Latzke and Quinlan, 1940) which lists the estimated annual budget a single working woman needed to live on in New York in 1937, along with what was seen as her minimum wardrobe requirements. This minimum ensured a good appearance, something that was vital to maintain her present position and to help make professional advancement.
By modern standards it is quite a basic list, only 1 blouse and 1 skirt is thought necessary, but would be one that would be built on each year.
The budget set $191.81 for clothing and $46.21 for upkeep and personal care.
Wool spring coat, every other year
4 felt hats, two heavy, two light
- 2 cotton, for summer street wear
- 4 rayon, 3 fair quality, one inexpensive
-1 wool dress, medium
-1 rayon party dress
1 wool skirt
1 sweater, every other year
-2 undervests (rayon)
-3 knit rayon bloomers
-2 panties, 1 rayon, 1 silk
-4 slips, 3 rayon, 1 silk
-2 corsets or girdles
-3 nightgowns, 1 cotton, 1 rayon, 1 cotton flannel
Flannel bathrobe (every 3 yrs.)
Rayon kimono, every other year
20 pairs medium silk stockings
-2 pairs medium quality street shoes
-1 pair medium quality dress shoes
-1 pair evening slippers, every other year
-1 pair inexpensive white shoes
Rubbers 1 pair every other year
Overshoes 1 pair every other year
House slippers 1 pair every other year
Umbrella, every other year
Raincoat, every 3 years
3 pairs gloves, 1 leather, 1 fabric
3 handbags at $1 each (or fewer and better)