When thinking of fashion from different decades, some are easy to described. The 1920s had the flapper dress, the 1970s had bell-bottoms, etc. The 1940’s are not as easy to pinpoint. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, fashion was not a priority. When World War II started and the economy began to pick up, however, fashion was once again revived.
American fashion style in the 1940’s was very glamorous, but also comfortable. Women began wearing tailored suit like jackets with skirts, although pants were still worn predominately by men. The shoulders would be squared in order to accentuate the waist and skirts would end just below the knee. Matching sets were a very fashionable choice, as long as gloves were included in the ensemble. Bright colors came back into fashion, as dyes became more accessible.
Another trend in women’s clothing in the 1940’s was to have outfits for different parts of the day. Women might have different outfits prepared for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, depending on the occasion. Tea or day dresses would be worn during the day, mostly in the house or for running short errands. Utility suits, otherwise known as Victory suits, could be worn for work or to meetings. Cocktail dresses, usually short and flared, could be worn with pearls and gloves to evening events.
Shoes became much more elaborate than the standard shoes from the 1930’s. Women’s shoes in the 1940s became thinner and less chunky. Heels became more delicate and a little higher. The 1940’s also saw the popularization of the wedge shoe, often called the wedgie. The peep toe also became popular and could be found on wedges and regular heels. Women also began wearing oxfords, saddle shoes, and loafers, which were fashioned after men’s shoes.
Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of fashion and art from the early 1940’s was the portrait of “Rosie the Rivetter” who was the personification of the American woman in the workforce. Because women began working more, pants and overalls became an acceptable fashion choice, though still not quite as popular as skirts. Pants were usually high waisted and flowing, to emulate skirts.
While men’s fashion remained fairly standard, women’s clothing in the 1940’s became much more fashionable and people began to experiment with clothes again. Fabric rationing during the war led to higher hemlines and women in the workforce led to pants being more widely worn by women. The risks taken with bright colors and bold clothing really paved the way for future fashion innovation.
Written By: Emily Rose Farrell