Power Dressing at the Telephone Switchboard, 1930s

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This photo shows a stark contrast in dress between the apparent supervisor, standing up with her hands behind her back, and the women working the switchboard.  In a dark skirt topped by a white shirt with cuffs, the supervisor looks like she is adopting elements of a man’s suit.  The women are all in dresses, except perhaps the one of the far right whose clothes are partly hidden.

It is hard to guess ages here, but perhaps the supervisor is in her forties.  At least a few of the women, like the one second from the left, is possibly older than she is.  The supervisor’s outfit looks old fashioned, like she adopted elements from the shirtwaist styles earlier in the century.  But she certainly communicates through her clothes just exactly who is in charge.

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2 Responses to Power Dressing at the Telephone Switchboard, 1930s

  1. This is really interesting, because in my youth, a skirt and blouse outfit was considered less “dressy” than a dress. (Maybe I’m thinking of “Church” clothes and formality.) Perhaps it’s because schoolgirls often wore separates, as did the women who worked behind the candy counter at the five and dime. However, my grammar school teachers wore dresses or skirt and blouse combos. Saleswomen who worked in clothing stores — especially expensive ones like I. Magnin, wore monochromatic dresses or suits. Of course, when you take off your jacket, a suit becomes a skirt and blouse. Lots to wonder about in that photo!

  2. JS says:

    I find the soft, shapeless floral dresses of the 1930s extremely unflattering on most women. They look squishy and vulnerable. The supervisor, by contrast, looks crisper in her more structured clothes.

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