21 Reasons Why You Should Wear 1940s Clothing & Trends

October 14th, 2013

1940s clothing and trends

Source: Hinesite Vintage

If one thing about 1940s clothing is for certain, it’s that the trends in America were influenced by the pressures of World War II.

It was as if for half a decade, fashion literally stopped. The war prevented high-fashion designers from designing between 1939 and 1945, and new garments were produced to show support for “fighting the good fight.” Compared to the glamorous era of the ’30s and the feminine flare of the ’50s, American ’40s fashion focused on a less-is-more conservatism in favor of patriotism.

Materials necessary for the war like wool, silk and nylon were impossible to find in the United States and outlawed from sale in the United Kingdom. So rayon, gabardine, linen and corduroy became the new materials of fashion.

“Victory” suits of shortened hems, body-skimming fits and minimal frills were made upon order of America’s War Production Board, which limited the length of skirts, jackets and pants so that fabric use was kept to a minimum to conserve textiles for war efforts. With men away from home, fashion accepted women dressing the part of “the man” whilst wearing padded blazers and pants in favor of dresses and skirts.

While a girl can easily purchase three pairs of shoes in one shopping trip today, American women in the ’40s were limited to three pairs per year. Plastic and leather shoes (again, materials necessary for wartime) were replaced in favor of cork and wooden heels.

However, 1940s clothing wasn’t just about style skimping or dressing like a man. Girls dressed like ladies in peplum skirts on dresses and coats, sequins on evening wear and pops of country-inspired prints. These were trends many women tailored themselves with sewing patterns (like from Vogue, Simplicity or Butterick) or if they were lucky enough to afford, bought new in store.

When Christian Dior introduced his “New Look” in 1947, the collection’s superfluous fabric and emphasis on a woman’s hourglass figure was such a stark contrast to the straight and narrow silhouette of less and lean ’40s clothing.

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Still, it would take until the early 1950s for American fashion to step away from the masculine styling of severe suiting, sharp and somber-colored dresses and the era’s “make do and mend” motif to embrace the return of luxurious feminine couture.

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