What Was Clothing Like During the Great Depression?

In the Depression era, women and girls often wore dresses or skirt sets, while men and young boys wore pants with button-up shirts. Many families made their own clothing.

During the Depression, clothing was often handmade from repurposed materials. For example, girls’ dresses were made with patterned flour or feed sacks. Children’s clothing was often saved for younger siblings to spare the expense of purchasing a new wardrobe for a younger child, particularly in larger families. In some regions, adults and children wore patched clothing to save on the cost of new clothing.

Pleated skirts with matching tops were popular during the early 1930s. Women wore leather boots and high-heeled shoes. Shorter sleeves, such as 3/4-inch sleeves and butterfly sleeves, were common for women. Dresses and skirt sets were often paired with jackets and tights during cooler months. Women’s dresses were sewn with pleats or in a cross-cut bias style that created diagonal pleats. Open-front jackets and hats were common for women during the Depression.

Men wore jackets, ties and trousers or pants made from denim. Adult men and young boys living in some regions also wore overalls. Denim jeans and overalls were typically reserved for farming, while men’s cotton pants and boys’ knee pants were worn for other activities. Leather shoes were common for people of all ages, and shoes were often worn until they were no longer usable.