Fashion History: Women’s Clothing in the 1940s
World War II’s Effect on Fashion
One might say that Adolf Hitler set the trends for women’s clothing in the 1940s. The September 1939 German invasion of Poland set the stage for all that happened over the following ten years. Additionally, as fashion is affected by societal trends as well as the state of the global economy, World War II called for adjustments to both clothes and fashion design.
- By the time Germany attacked Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor had already been destroyed. Haute couture was put on hold due to the ongoing war in the world.
- The effects of globe War II on women’s daily life in America and most of the rest of the globe may be difficult for many to picture now. Without going into great detail about the misery brought on by a world at war, suffice it to state that everyone was affected by the war, even those who lived in nations where it was not actively being waged. The entire globe evolved, and so did the trends for women!
- The military had an impact on fashion in the US and Europe, and many women’s clothes developed a military style that emphasized the importance of the war. Women had to get by with less everywhere.
Women’s Fashion in the War
Fabric was limited to support the war effort. The military need both nylon and wool, and Japanese silk was banned in the USA following the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the War, rayon, which is a novel semi-synthetic fabric manufactured from wood pulp and other plant components, was most frequently employed to make women’s apparel.
The Coupon System
By June 1941, a coupon system had replaced cloth shortages, as Britain was under attack from the Nazis. In Britain, adults received 66 clothing coupons annually; by 1945, that number had dropped to 36 coupons. Prices were expensive and supplies were short. Due to the necessity for textiles and other resources for the production of garments, several governments imposed limits on their usage.
People were afraid of a gas attack while London was attacked since the Germans had used gas against the forces of the Allies in World War I. The luxury Harvey Nichols department shop in London sold pure oiled silk gas safety garments in a range of colours. Many ladies had utility jumpsuits that they could swiftly change into when the alarms sounded. The jumpsuit was a brand-new invention that included pockets for valuables and papers and was warm and comfortable.
Paris’s Influence on Fashion Has Evaporated
Paris no longer continues to be the fashion industry’s top city. People in the Allied nations objected to the couture houses that were still operating because some of the leading designers appeared to be working together with occupying forces. Paris also featured an excessive use of textiles during a time when the rest of the world was cutting back, such as cuffs, dolmen sleeves, broken buttons, covering fabric, and pocket flaps.
- The renowned fashion designer Coco Chanel shut down her design studio during the war, but she faced harsh criticism for her friendship with a senior Nazi officer. Chanel referred to the French Resistance as criminals and backed the hated Wartime administration.
- Le Theatre de la Mode, or the Theater of Fashion, which consisted of 200 two-foot-tall dolls dressed in Paris-designed apparel, was a fascinating manner for Paris to display its goods.
New York Started to Take the Lead in Fashion
The fashion business went to New York with the American style due to the hardships of the war and popular dislike of Paris. For instance, Claire McCardell used materials that weren’t popular with the military. Materials like cotton jeans, and jersey, gingham, calico, and striped mattress ticking were useful, cozy, and displayed for daily use.
- With both gloomy and patriotic colours like air force blue, sky blue, flag red, black, browns, greens, tan, and gray cotton, “war wise” clothing became the fashionable thing. Designers of fabrics came up with wool mixes comprised of recycled wool and silk since wool was utilized for troops’ blankets. The main fabric was silk. It could be made in both light and heavy weights, was comfortable, and did not shrink or wrinkle.
Other 1940s fashion features
- Hairs: Long hair with curled ends was used to give off a delicate, feminine appearance. Women saved money by getting their hair trimmed less frequently because visiting beauty parlours was expensive. Long hair was simple to tie back for safety given the large number of women who joined the military or thought of manufacturing occupations. The lengthy hair might then be styled down for dressy or casual occasions. Snoods, an elegant hybrid of a hair net and a veil, were frequently knitted or stitched by women.
- Girdles: Girdles were no longer in use since the war effort required the rubber. Dresses and skirts frequently have adjustable waistlines. However, when food was limited, being thin wasn’t difficult.
- Swimsuits: The amount of cloth required to make swimsuits was also reduced, which led to the loss of the little skirt flap that was so common on one-piece suits. The development of the two-piece swimsuit and naked midriffs are both results of fabric reduction. In 1946, the bikini made its premiere.
- Shoes: Shoe heels were shorter, and shoe designers felt this type of shoe would offer interest. For ease and safety in the job, many ladies wore flat-heeled shoes. T-straps and open-toed shoes were stylish and cheap.
- Pants: Women who worked in factories adopted pants as a necessity, and they quickly gained popularity for everyday wear and outdoor tasks at home. In many movies, the actress Katherine Hepburn wore stylish, wide-leg pants, which contributed to the popularity of the style.
- Stockings: When the military switched from silk to nylon stockings, several ladies painted their legs a light shade of tan and drew a line up the back to look like cracks. Bobby socks became a hit with the younger generation.
- Headwears: Hats reduced, causing a shift in headwear. Snoods were elevated hair nets worn to hide limp or unstyled hair that may be bought or made at home.
The fashion business did not instantly transform after World War II. Years of clothing restriction and fabric limitations were experienced as the country steadily shifted from a war economy to a peace one.
American awareness of other cultures led to the rise of a new global awareness. With the popularity of tropical designs came exotic flowers like roses and palm leaves.
Women who desired brightness and excitement were introduced to new colours like terra-cotta and turquoise by the designs and hues of Mexico and Latin America. Inspired by the well-known artist Frida Kahlo, peasant blouses and skirts presented a gentle, calm femininity for warm weather.
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