When women dressed to impress on the beach: 1930s fashion in Deauville

Design by Jean Patou - Deauville, 1930

Had you been in Deauville or Cannes in the 1930s, you would have seen ongoing fashion shows all around you. Designers like Jeanne Lanvin and Madeleine Vionnet had models wear their collections in their clients’ fashionable resorts and had them photographed there to gain exposure in fashion magazines. Among the photographers, the brothers Seeberger documented the life of the rich and famous in Deauville. In return, the town organized a retrospective of their work this summer, which I told you about in my previous blog entry.

What do you think of 1930s fashion? Is it your favorite in fashion history, or do you like another time period better?

Seeberger retrospective in Deauville

I was struck when I took pictures of the exhibition by the elegantly casual style of the women. The flowing fabrics, the high waist and the simplicity of the silhouettes gave them freedom to move, but the perfection of the cut underlines that they dressed to impress, even on vacation.

Coco Chanel had a major influence on 1930s fashion, and we can give Deauville some credit. It is her clientele in the fashionable coastal town that inspired her androgynous and timeless style with jersey sweaters and high-waist pants.

Deauville was the vacation spot of many celebrities, among them American-born dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker. She is featured here with her pet cheetah, which accompanied her on stage.

Josephine Baker - Deauville, 1930

Horse races were one of the most important social events in Deauville. It was therefore an opportunity for women to show off their best outfits.

Actor Buster Keaton and his wife - Deauville, 1934

Designs by Jean Patou - Deauville, 1927

Jean Patou was Gabrielle Chanel’s main competitor. Influenced by Art Deco and Cubism, he is famous for introducing luxury sportswear for women and popularizing the cardigan. His muse was tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen, who set the trend of sleeveless jumpers.

Suzanne Lenglen, the first major international star in women’s tennis / la première star internationale du tennis féminin

These ladies knew how to wear their Hermès scarf.

What would you wear at the beach: a jumpsuit?

Or a swimming suit?

And to cover up: a cape flowing in the wind?

Or elegant bathrobes?

And lastly, the cutest picture:

Si vous étiez à Cannes ou à Deauville dans les années 1930, vous auriez assisté à un défilé de mode permanent. Les couturiers comme Jeanne Lanvin et Madeleine Vionnet envoyaient leurs mannequins dans ces lieux de vacances à la mode pour montrer leurs créations aux riches clientes et les faire photographier par la presse spécialisée. Parmi les photographes, les frères Seeberger qui ont suivi la vie d’une société de luxe et de plaisir à Deauville. La ville leur a rendu hommage cet été par l’exposition dont je vous ai parlé dans mon dernier billet.

Que pensez-vous de la mode des années 1930? Est-ce votre coup de cœur ou leur préférez-vous une autre époque dans l’histoire de la mode ?

En prenant ces photos de l’exposition, j’ai été intriguée par l’élégance décontractée qui s’en dégage. La fluidité des matières, la taille haute et la simplicité des tenues laissent une certaine liberté de mouvement, mais la perfection des coupes trahît la volonté de paraître sous son meilleur jour.

L’influence de Coco Chanel sur la mode des années 1930 est majeure, et Deauville n’y est pas pour rien. C’est sa clientèle de bord de mer qui lui a inspiré son style androgyne et intemporel avec ses marinières en jersey et ses pantalons de marin.

Deauville accueillait de nombreuses célébrités, comme la mythique chanteuse et danseuse d’origine américaine Josephine Baker. Elle est ici photographiée avec son léopard, qui l’accompagnait sur scène.

 Les courses de chevaux étaient l’un des rendez-vous les plus importants de Deauville, et par conséquent l’occasion de montrer ses plus belles toilettes.  

Jean Patou était le principal concurrent de Gabrielle Chanel. Influencé par l’Art déco et le Cubisme, il est connu pour avoir introduit le sportswear de luxe dans la mode et avoir rendu le gilet populaire. Sa muse était la championne de tennis Suzanne Lenglen, qui a lancé la tendance des combinaisons sans manche.

128 thoughts on “When women dressed to impress on the beach: 1930s fashion in Deauville

  1. J’ai toujours trouvé que les gens s’habillaient mieux avant. Enfin, la proportion de personnes bien habillées était supérieure à celle d’aujourd’hui. Quelqu’un me suit ?
    J’arrête mon commentaire sinon, je sens que je vais me défouler, sur les touristes, les ados, les très jeunes filles etc. :)

    1. Why doesn’t swim wear look like this today? Was it simply the wear or was it the women that possessed such an explosion of elegance and grace? History always repeats itself, so why not this in fabric & female;)

  2. These stunning photographs illustrate just how perfect the 1930s fashion designs were; sexy, functional, stylish, and most impressively (the almost impossible to achieve) edgy yet laid back look.

    Great article!

  3. This is a fabulous post!!! I love the photos and the peek at a world long gone. I also love that these women are absolutely beautiful, without cosmetic surgery or implants. I have a photo of my mom, her sister, and a friend, seated on a railing in bathing suits that is exactly like the one you show.

  4. Long gone world for sure. It would be nice if more people took a little care about how they look in public.

    It looks beautiful in these pictures, but I wouldn’t want to trade places today. Most people were struggling through the Great Depression during those years.

    One small point — isn’t that a cheetah with Baker, not a leopard? I’m no expert, but it looks too small and skinny, with very long legs.

    1. Thanks Chris!
      About the animal with Josephine, French articles say it’s a leopard. But on checking, it seems that you are right and I’ll edit that right now. Thanks for pointing it out!

  5. I do not consider myself an expert on fashion by any means. However, I do believe the 1930’s to 1960’s was a much classier era for women and their wardrobe, even at the beach. Great post and incredible pics! :)

  6. these women knew how to dress, wish we still dressed like that. this is an amazing post. very beautiful photographs.

  7. Love the Hermès scarf and the cape. I’d probably go with a jumpsuit. They were so freaking cute, but the bathing suits, not so much.

  8. I echo the sentiments of many here – that the era of fashion discussed here represents a time of elegance. In the 20s, women started asserting their independence, and of course that translated into fashion (think of the Flappers!). It evolved into fashion that really focused on enhancing the female form.

    I found it interesting too that some of the shoes featured in the pictures are not that different from more recent shoe fashions! As they say, styles that go out of favor ultimately come back.

    Thanks.

    Laura
    http://culinaryspirits.wordpress.com/
    http://vintageminx.wordress.com/

    1. Yes, it is a cheetah in the picture, and its name was Chiquita. According to Wikipedia, it had a diamond collar and it frequently escaped in the orchestra pit during shows.

  9. I love this post! I always admire fashion and it always changes and evolves in a big circle.
    The pictures are awesome, and I do admire the girl with the sailor-inspired pants, the cheetah how outrageous, and the extra wide leg pants!

  10. It does seem that a little bit of these styles would be classy in some ways to see at the beach but others are not exactly practical. I wonder how they kept some of those things clean at the beach all day. It seems like a who’s who event in front of the camera’s. I wonder what they were like as people? The lady with the cheetah must have been pretty wild!

    1. A who’s who event was exactly what it was, 2zpoint. Deauville was the place to be for the rich & famous at the time.
      Yes, Josephine Baker certainly had an amazing life! Apart from being a world-famous entertainer, she also contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the USA and assisted the French Resistance during Word War II.

  11. Wow, it’s amazing how much things have changed. I haven’t seen anyone at our local pool wearing much like that. Swimsuits aren’t what they used to be, but for the most part, I’m okay with that.

  12. Even though some of the suits are down right unflattering, I was struck by how elegant they were for something like a trip to the beach.

    Maybe the world was better when people didn’t dress like slobs.

  13. It is amazing how youthful they dressed, it`s so long ago! The woman all look so good, so elegant, but still so fresh, modern and chic!
    I love many of theese pictures so much, do you mind if I steal some of them? Beautifully written by the way!

    1. Thank you for your comment! English isn’t my native language, so I’m always wondering if my writing is OK.
      About the pictures, they’re not exactly mine since I took pictures of pictures that were shown on the beach. But it did take a lot of time for me to rework them on my computer, so if you want to use them for your own blog, I’d appreciate you crediting this post. Thanks for your understanding! ;-)

      1. I`m not english either, but I really think you dont need to think about your writing, it is amazing :) About the photos, of course I will credit your blog on my blog, but I am not going to post the pictures there. I thought I would print some of them out and hang them on the wall in my room, but of course it would be a bit dis-respectful of me to do so ;)
        Sorry for taking up ur time!

        1. Aw thank you! I’m happy to know you like the pictures so much. It’s a shame I couldn’t get them in better quality then (not easy to take a picture of something that is set much higher than you, as you can see in the 2nd pic in the post)

  14. While I am not one to pursue fashion trends, I really appreciated the blast from the past photography. Great art!

  15. I love your post.

    That period of time wasn’t my favorite in fashion, but I think it’s all beautiful regardless. It’s so simplistic and beautiful, without compromising comfort and style. They all look classy and chic.

  16. I totally love this blog. The 30s was so elegant and stylish. I especially love the photos from the jumpsuits, the first one could have been an outfit from today with those platform shoes. Adorable. I got your email by the way, made me really happy! I have not forgotten about it and will answer it very soon.

  17. I loved this post and your blog! Going through each photos, I was surprised to see how modern someof the outfits and pieces were… how they would not be out of place in our wardroes and fashion magazines today. Such elegant women in those pics. Loved them!

  18. Really nice photos. Infact, awesome. Totally vintage. Androgynouus is nice. But whats not are those bell-botoomed pants and silly sleeveless jumpers.

  19. i wonder if it is just me, or do the contours of all the women in th pictures above seem sort of… different from the ones we see now? i don’t mean the contemporary models… it feels like our bodies have evolved, and i can see a difference in the bone structure or figure, or what ever it is.

  20. What a wonderful post! I’ve found your blog through TFS. After seeing your photos, I really want to go to Deauville. A place I never thought about going before.

  21. Everyone looked so wonderful, didn’t they? Well, at least the rich and priviledged did. I wonder what the average person was wearing on their summer holidays in not so glamourous locations?

    1. Good question Howlin’, especially when you know that there was a dramatic economic crisis at the time.
      Yet I do think that people took better care of how they looked and maybe the average quality of clothes was better. My grandmother for instance was in her 20es at the time and even if her parents were farmers and didn’t have a lot of money, she always looks wonderfully dressed on old family pictures.

  22. I must now buy a cape to wear to the beach.

    Actually, all the clothing looks really comfortable, I think I would totally wear it to the beach.

  23. I love those high waisted wide-legged pants. Beautiful! Especially coupled with those great heels and mary janes that the 1930s had to offer.

    J’aime cet article. Merci!

  24. I’m 14 and I kind of wish that some of the things they were wearing were still fashionable today. They’re totally cute. I should start a trend! xP Yeeah right, like that would work. haha Love the pics :D

  25. The 30s were a transformative decade for both men and women’s fashion. I wonder what our current century will hold, given the similarities economically speaking? Thank you for this excellent retrospective!

    En tout cas, votre anglais est parfait. Felicitacions!

  26. Joli! Effectivement, Coco Chanel vient tout de suite en tête en regardant de telles images. Sa patte…
    Quand je vois de telles séries d’images, ça me rend nostalgique -pas de l’époque, que je n’ai jamais vécue) mais -de cette élégance.
    C’était ma première visite ici. Je reviendrai.

  27. Lovely post. It’s always fun and interesting and, actually, inspiring to observe the fashion of past decades. It makes you realize that everything is a flow-in-motion and that whatever you may love about the 30’s fashion will surely make its way back to the modern fashion in some shape or form – if it haven’t already. :)

    Thanks for all the great pictures. Really enjoyed them!

    All my best!

  28. Elegant classiness from a by-gone era. Vintage photos. I like the couple with the long robes on best – and Josephine Baker with the pet Cheetah, LOL

  29. What always amazes me about fashion from the 1930s — even up until the 1950s — is how “grown-up” everybody looks. The emphasis in the U.S. on youth actually makes people look younger, even into their 40s. Wonderful web site.

  30. Pingback: Sweet relief! |
  31. My, look at how curvey the women look. Quite different from the tall, thin, toned, and tan look of today.

    Let’s wear our fur to the seaside, shall we?

    Very nice photos. Overall, people dressed so elegantly back then.

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