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Media, leisure & fashion - Britain in the 1930's.

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Introduction

Reduced working hours and paid holidays for those in employment led to a great increase in the leisure industry. In 1931 only 1.5 million people were entitled to paid holidays, but 1939, this had risen to 11 million. The media portrayed an idealistic lifestyle with sunshine and plenty of fresh air, and contemporary concern for public health meant that leisure was very important. Contraception meant that families were smaller and so had more available money, some of which was spent on leisure activities. The 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act, in response to continental development, led to the building of more leisure facilities, such as lidos, which provided the social and fitness aspects of leisure, as well as an air of exotic excitement and sophistication. A woman's place was generally considered to be in the home, and so leisure was generally male orientated, however, some aspects of leisure were enjoyed by all. Sport was an aspect of leisure which appealed to many different people. Boxing was very popular with the lower class, and sports like cricket and football attracted the upper class. Whether playing or watching sport, it was fun and offered a way of escape from normal life. There were opportunities for physical and emotional expression and a sense of accomplishment. Essentially, they also gave a feeling of belonging, which was what people wanted at this time when unemployment and thus insecurity was prevalent. Sport clubs did not make great profits and so were accessible to a great range of people. Gambling was, according to 'The Economist,' Britain's second biggest industry, and this added to the excitement of sport, particularly on the greyhound tracks. For the working class men, drinking was an essential social pastime, providing a great source of comfort and relief from the mundane pressures of daily life, it was also a social place, providing a feeling of belonging which was crucial in a society with such little stability. ...read more.

Middle

Consequently, slimmer styles increased in popularity, showing off the female figure. The Hollywood ideal was of a glamorous and seductive female, and draped and clinging fabrics were used to achieve this effect. Technological developments such as Marcel Permanent Waves, meant that women's hairstyles were longer and fuller also making them look more feminine. Men's suits were modified to create the image of a large torso as if to give men some ego at a time of great insecurity. Shoulder pads and sleeves tapered to the wrist, with peaked lapels showing a v-shaped chest were used to do this. This time was when the double-breasted suit became popular. Stripes were popular for suits, as well as 'plaid' patterns. As those in employment became richer, the 'London cut' designed by Frederick Scholte sleeves tapering slightly from shoulder to wrist, high pockets and buttons, wide, pointed lapels flaring from the top. Shoulder pads and additional fabric filled out the armhole, creating drape in the shoulder area. This suit was meant to show the status of the successful. Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant made it very popular. Fashion in the 1930s was the opposite of the 1930s, as if it was felt that the lifestyle of the 1920s had brought the Great Depression and that only a change from the fast times and youth culture could deal with the situation. However, by 1936, for the middle and upper classes, it was generally a time of prosperity. In the late 1930s, a tense atmosphere with the possibility of war was evident and had a marked effect on clothing fashions. Designers created clothing of a military style with square shoulders for all, and low heels for women. These were designed to stay in fashion and remain functional. Simple clothes such as trousers, sweaters and classic shirt waisters were popular. Sound also meant that the subject matter and style of films could range ever wider. ...read more.

Conclusion

For the people in employment, higher wages and shorter working hours meant that they could enjoy the new leisure facilities and holiday destinations that were becoming very popular. The media, particularly the American-influence from the cinema encouraged people to spend more time outside. The radio helped to make sports more popular. Leisure was very important as it gave a sense of belonging and thus security at a time where society was insecure. Although some aspects of leisure, for example, hiking, were available to most people, generally, commercialised leisure was inaccessible for the unemployed and lower classes. Fashion was also influenced by, and changed by, the instability of society. Clothes generally became more sober and practical than the clothes of the 1920s because people were poorer and had less money for needless extravagance. New fabrics meant that well fitting clothes were available for all but the poorest members of society. Women's clothes became more practical as a response to changes in their social roles. Clothes also reflected popular pastimes, for example, the increase in sport's clothes. The motor industry meant people were able to take more holidays and so beachwear became important, and dresses were designed to show sun-tanned shoulders. Contraception meant that women could wear the new 'clingy' materials and show their femininity. In response to the changes in fashion, many new magazines became popular, including Vogue, which was about women's fashion. These, and books like the Penguin paperbacks, meant that women and people from all classes were more informed and had independent opinions. This brought better democracy because people knew more about the decisions they were making, it also meant that women wanted more rights. The cinema presented an idealistic lifestyle where women were glamorous, stylish and happy and men were rich and powerful, this was popular at a time of social instability through the Wall Street Crash, and then later on, through the threat of war. The 1930s was a time of great affluence, consumerism and development for some. However, for others, particularly the unemployed, it was a time of hardship and depression. ...read more.

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