Dress by the Decade | 1940s
Hey everybody! I’m very interested in fashion history so I decided to do a series where I talk about the styles and what influenced them per decade, starting from the 1940s. It’s actually very fascinating discovering how the biggest trends of a certain decade come around. Hopefully this will help you to be able to curate you wardrobe to the 1940s style (if you wish to). Enjoy learning!
1940s fashion is known for hourglass silhouettes, boxy shoulders, cinched waists, and skirts that ended just below the knee. But do you know how that came into fashion? Why did they shorten the skirts? How did the war effect women’s clothing? Well lets find out.
Durning WW2 fabrics were rationed as they were needed to make items such as uniforms and parachutes, which were needed to fight Germany. People were told to “Make do and Mend”, which is exactly what they did. Hemlines were made shorter in order to save fabric.
Women clothing had a more masculine style to it, which has heavily influenced by the military uniforms. Thus the invention of shoulder pads, used to create a ‘solid’ look. In the later 40s and early 50s the shoulder pads take a more soft and feminine approach, used solely to add shape.
The necklines in everyday wear were varied during the 40s but it always had to be modest. The top part of the dress showed little skin, never showing any cleavage. The only time skin was to be shown was in evening dresses. The skirts were still long, however, the shoulders and chest were generally exposed.
Once fabrics became more available in the late 1940s, the styles slightly changed. Bright colours and fun patterns became popular in order to heal and try and forget the war. Cotton became popular for dresses as the material was light and airy.
The New Look
In 1947 Christian Dior launched his first collection, not knowing it would go down in Fashion History. Not only did it solidify Dior as an iconic fashion house, it completely shaped the style, trends and silhouettes for the late 40s and 50s. It was dubbed as ‘The New Look’ as it was completely opposite to the intense, boxy, military style worn during the war.
The New Look was feminine and had an extreme hourglass figure. Skirts were now big and puffy and shoulders were no longer boxy.After a long and depressing war, the New Look brought back the spirt of Haute Couture, it brought back glamour and femininity. At the beginning, the New Look didn’t get big in America as Americans felt the designers in Paris acted like no war had taken place, while they had to sacrifice their clothing for the war. However, people wanted change, so they finally accepted this style and wore it throughout the 50s.
In the 1940s, women were encouraged to wear make-up in order to “hide sadness” from the war and to “attracted men”. Coloured films help increase make-ups popularity as women could recreate their favourite Hollywood actress’ make-up looks.
Most women wore lipstick and rogue, while some also wore eye makeup. The style of make-up was minimal and fresh faced, even though women wore thick layers of foundation. The lips are the most important part of the 40s make up face, it was thought to keep a woman’s spirt up during the war. Red lipstick was really the only colour that was worn, and it was usually matte. -
How to Achieve the 1940s Look
Here are some simple ways you can incorporate 40s trends into your everyday look, without looking dated or old fashioned.