Wardrobe Advice for the Business Woman in the 1920-30s

Blog Post created by kmillspaugh on Dec 7, 2016

Anne Neely-Beck MAFCA (Model A Ford Club of America) Era Fashion Committee
Business_Women.doc Page 1 Rev. 12/31/06

There were business women in the Model A era, but most women’s magazines did not portray the women outside the house. During the 1920's, one in four women over the age of 16 were part of the work force. They mainly held jobs traditionally thought as female, such as in the fields of nursing and teaching. Thirty percent of women wage workers were involved in clerical and sale work. Clerical work or white collar positions were “respectable” during the era. White women born in the United States largely filled these positions.

During the 1930's, women workers faced heavy discrimination and social criticism. This was the Depression and it was thought that women were taking jobs away from men and that they were also abandoning their families in a time of extreme need. Most of the media railed against working mothers.

I did find some advertising by Pond’s during the late 20's and early 30's that made reference to how a working woman could manage to maintain fresh beautiful skin even while working, if she used Pond’s cold cream. It was “believed” that if women worked outside the home, they would lose their charm and delicate beauty.

The business women of the Model A Era, whether she was an executive or a secretary (clerical worker), could be smartly dressed. “The right clothes and smart clothes are part of the business of work, and in the day of excellent copies of originals, the secretary may be as well dressed as her employer.” This is a quote from a business woman in the April 1930 issue of Delineator Magazine. Articles written in the February and October 1930 issues of McCall’s talk about the importance of dressing correctly for the work place.


Suggestions were given by several business women on how to plan a wardrobe on a budget. One thought was to decide on a color and stick to it; then add one green, red, and black frock. With these three colors, add one good set of black accessories, bag, pumps, and a hat would complete the wardrobe and do the trick. Another suggestion was to add one piece of good jewelry if it fit into your budget.


Also it was suggested to start with a black wool crepe coat with an uneven hem, then add a black skirt and several blouses. The blouses could be white and pastel for variety. If the budget permitted one or two frocks, a black and white print or perhaps a pink or yellow print on black background all with uneven hemlines. Also purchase a plain pair of black suede pumps, black gloves, black hat, and one or two pieces of black and white jewelry.


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