Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Merced

UC Merced Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Merced

1930s Hollywood Film Fashion; Transgressing 1930s Class and Social Barriers through Fashion

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

This thesis seeks to answer research questions such as: what role do 1930s Hollywood films, and fashion in film play in our understanding of 1930s America? Of the values important to America in the 1930s? What is the significance of the rags to riches film motif in regards to 1930s America? The thesis closely examines the film case studies, Baby Face (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), and The Bride Wore Red (1937), which depict the way in which the women characters utilize fashion to challenge and subvert gendered, racial, and class-based social barriers; tensions between women’s freedom to self-fashion and self-identify themselves and notions about the 1930s ideal femininity. The case study Stella Dallas, demonstrates Stella’s downfall is rooted not in her inability to adapt into high society, but in her relentless determination to fashion her own identity and version of motherhood. Stella’s punishment simultaneously reveals embedded class expectations and class as a visual performance. The fashions in these films thus signal this point of contention. By examining the role of fashion within these films, we are likewise able to understand the role of fashion in women’s attempt and pursuit of social mobility during the harsh years of the depression. This thesis advocates for an analysis of 1930s films and fashion in films to better understand the social relationships during the 1930s in America, a complex and contradictory decade tied to a growing consumerist society, the privileging of whiteness in Hollywood and America, and the relationship between those factors and the rags to riches film motif.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View