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A Brief History of 1940s Fashion
Just as fashion of the 1930s developed from the economic hardships of the period, style trends of the 40s were a reaction to the hardships of wartime restrictions. Wartime restrictions were placed on the amount of fabric manufacturers could use and the amount of new clothing consumers could buy.
In the 1940s, because of the war, there was a general moving away from fabulous dressing. The government asked the designers not to be wasteful, including using unnecessary amounts of fabric, materials and trimming. The bias cut, 1930s silhouette slowly disappeared and was replaced with a new, more simplistic style.
It was also during this period that pants and wide leg trousers came into vogue. Women working on war services had adopted wearing blue jeans as a necessity, but they quickly caught on and became a wardrobe staple.
In the 40s, attitudes about style and dress were becoming more and more casual. Dresses often had wide shoulder pads, a nipped in long waist and a full skirt that fell just below the knee. Common details often seen were peter pan collars, furs and patriotic colors of red, white and blue. Suits were common, in generic colors, with no nonsense shoulder pads and hemlines just below the knee.
Hair was usually worn pulled back, often with bandanas, scarves, or barrettes. Turbans were popular also, especially with the glamorous Hollywood starlets.
Gloves became an important staple of the decade's wardrobe. Women wore short or elbow length gloves during the day and opera length for evening wear. Hats continued to remain popular for daytime wear and thanks to actress Marlene Dietrich, the fedora soon came into vogue for women.
1940s shoes were often toeless, sling back, rounded toe, wedges, alligator and cork platforms.
1940s Fashion Icons
Throughout the thrifty war years of the 1940s, the glamor of movies and film stars became a way for people to escape the realities of total war. Actresses like Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Bette Davis set the standards for beauty and fashion.
Veronica Lake was a femme fatale and a fashion icon, with a trademark peekaboo hairstyle that was so widely imitated by women working in factories during WWII it was considered to be a workplace hazard. During her career, she stared in many films as well as stage and television. Her popularity peaked during the war years and by the end of 1951 she retired from film.