1940s Fashion: War Time Efforts

The era of 1940s fashion is marked by the entry of the United States into the Second World War. This also began a shortage of raw materials needed for many items, including clothing.

Synthetic materials, as well as synthetic and natural blends, made their debut during this period of time. Many of the men wore their military uniforms while the women often remade the remaining clothing of men into practical outfits for themselves.

Formal Wear in the 1940s

Men's formal wear was often patterned after the uniforms of the naval officers in Great Britain. President Eisenhower was also the inspiration for another men's fashion staple in the 1940s. The Eisenhower jacket, also borrowing from the military, featured a jacket that had a fitted and belted waist with a chest that had extra fabric so that it bloused out.

Women's dresses continued to be fuller at the waist. Hemlines remained below the knee or at the calf. Ensemble outfits for women, which featured skirts or dresses with matching coats, continued to be popular fashions for women in the 1940s. The clutch coat, which needed to be held shut due to the lack of a fastener, was also a popular item in 1940s fashions.

Business Attire

Because of the ongoing war, the fashions for women in the 1940s featured practical clothing that was often made from the men's clothing that was left at home. Trousers and rugged shirts in dark and neutral colors were the mainstay items in many women's closets as more women worked in the factories to keep up with the war effort. Because many men were serving their country during World War II during this time period, their business attire most often consisted of their military uniforms.

1940s Fashion

Casual Wear

Casual wear for women in the 1940s included fashionable shorts that were flared as well as the square shoulders that were prominent throughout the era. Men traded in their knickerbockers for trousers that were made in a more casual design. Many men, however, continued to wear their military uniforms even when out in a casual situation.

Major Fashion Influences

During the 1940s fashion era, the war was the primary influence on both women's and men's fashion. Men's fashion was patterned after military uniforms (both British and American). Women's fashion was often derived from reworked clothing that had previously been men's clothing or calf length skirts and dresses that were full from the waist down.

With the unavailability of many of the raw materials that had previously been used by clothing designers, they were forced to find new clothing choices such as wool blends and synthetic blends. Nylon pantyhose were introduced during this time period as well. It was hastily recalled, however, as war production shifted into high gear.

Actresses such as Lauren Bacall and Mary Pickford wore the popular women's fashions of padded shoulders and long, full skirts or dresses. President Eisenhower, as well as military uniforms, continued to be a large influence on men's fashions of the 1940s. Jackets that were cut narrowly in the middle and belted were popular for men during this time period.

A shortage of natural materials during the World War II years saw fashion designers turning to materials that were a blend of natural arterials as wool and synthetic blends. Due to a lack of European fashions in the 1940s because of the war, American fashion designers enjoyed new popularity. These designers provided women and men with ready to wear fashions.

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