The Way We WereMay 1, 2007 By: American Salon Staff American Salon
There are several key reasons for this "casualization" of the American wardrobe. First, sports had become so popular, it was cool to dress like an active participant. For example, shorts had become acceptable attire for bicycling in the late 1920s. By the 1930s, they were worn in the spring and summer months for nonathletic activities by men, women and children. Second, the trend toward "dressing down" was part of a general relaxing of social codes in other aspects of American culture. Women had taken up roles outside of the home, parents had less direct control over their children and previously steadfast moral standards had started to soften.
A third factor in the rise of sportswear was that the clothing was more available than ever before. By the 1930s, most department stores around the country had sportswear sections and an increasing number of Seventh Avenue fashion houses were responding to the forever-growing demand. While sportswear was first created by French couturiers, it became a distinctly American trend during this decade, with homegrown designers dominating the field by the start of the 1940s. Long forgotten names such as Tina Lesser, Claire McCardell and Claire Potter represented the first wave of women designers dedicated to creating sportswear.
So the next time you pull on those sweats for a late-afternoon run, think of the 1930s and be thankful that times, like fashion, do indeed change.
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck's novel is not simply the stuff of senior year reading lists. The novel tells of the Joad family, their displacement from their farm in Oklahoma and their path to California.
A Long Way from Chicago and Year Down Yonder These novels by Richard Peck chronicle the adventures of Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, who spend the summer with their eccentric grandmother in a small Illinois town.
Ask the Dust Part of a series of novels about Depression-era California written by Italian-American John Fante, Ask the Dust is a romance that tracks the unstable relationship of Arturo and a young, wild Mexican waitress in Los Angeles.
All the King's Men Yeah, yeah, you saw the movie. Granted, it doesn't have Jude Law, but the book by Robert Penn Warren is better. The story of corrupt politicians, do-gooding idealists and Southern society during the Depression is a real page-turner written in slick language and featuring a cast of larger-than-life characters.
The Dark Decade
The Great Depression was the longest sustained period of economic stagnation in our country's history. In case your cable plan doesn't include the History Channel, here is a summary of the situation.
The stock market crashed in late 1929 due in part to rising interest rates, a growing disparity between rich and poor and a flood of consumer goods when people simply weren't buying. As more and more Americans pulled investments out of the stock market, the country plunged into a recession.
While the crash can be blamed for the initial recession, it was a lack of confidence in the economy that kept the country from recovering. This domino effect built upon itself; the less Americans bought, the worse the economy became.
The crash was matched with a crisis in agriculture production that was the result of overproduction in the early 1920s. Dust storms blew across the American prairies and stripped away topsoil, making farming nearly impossible and causing hundreds of thousands of families to close down their farms. Many went to California to work as day laborers. The photographs of Dorothea Lange capture the angst of these displaced people.