Remember that really bad Rod Stewart song from the 80’s, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? I’m assuming you’ll agree it was terrible because I think it is. In truth, what’s a catchy tune or an ear worm, what’s bland or delicious, what is sexy or not is entirely subjective.
Except for 1930’s ladies in their fabulous bias cut gowns-I think we can all agree that these are pretty sexy:
Fashion of the 1930s was, surprisingly, very sensual. They featured sinuous shapes and fabrics that draped daringly over the body, allowing women the freedom to move with ease while being caressed by fine silk cloth.
Before stretchy fabrics were available, the “bias cut” was used for body-hugging silhouettes. In 1927, Parisian designer Madeleine Vionette developed this technique by changing the direction that pattern pieces were laid out in relation to the grain of fabric.
What is the advantage of a bias cut gown? It drapes over and highlights the body. Gowns cut on the true bias hug and cling to the hips and midriff then fall beautifully. Many times they seem like a second skin. Colors newly available in silk at that time included soft flesh tones like champagne, fawn and blush, which added to their sensual appeal.
Worn with very little underneath, this style was scandalously close to naked, replacing the layers of chemises, knickers, corsets, corset covers and petticoats that had encompassed the Western female form for generations.
Hollywood of the thirties greatly influenced what women thought about what was fashionable, what was acceptable, and what was sexy. In contrast to the realities of the depression, costume design was quite lavish. Exemplified by Jean Harlow’s iconic white satin bias cut dresses, the Hollywood look featured dramatic lines that played best to camera. The minimally embellished slip-like gown was emblematic of Hollywood of that decade.
Thirties films were “Pre-Code”, meaning they were made after the introduction of sound and before the enforcement of strict censorship rules (the “Hays Code”). Pre-Code films were bawdy, risque and irreverent, exploring lesbian relationships, drug use, divorce, sex work and extramarital affairs. Women -married or not-were frankly sexual, and their outfit of choice was the bias cut gown.
I have quite a few bias cut gowns in the shop and I am amazed by the quality of the fabric, still draping and flowing 80 years later.