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World War Two - Fashion

Additional articles about Forties fashions can be read here.

When Fashion and Uniforms Meet...(Click Magazine, 1942)

When the general appearance of women's uniforms prescribed for voluntary war work by various charitable organizations were deemed unfashionable, uncomfortable or simply embarrassing, the well-known fashion stylist and costume designer Irene (Irene Lentz, 1900 - 1962) stepped up to the plate designing an all-purpose green wool suit, topped-off by a beret:

"The noted Hollywood stylist, Irene, performed a real service for defense when she designed her all-around defense suit. Of sturdy gabardine, worn with long cotton service socks and plastic shoes, it is nevertheless as attractive as any civilian suit, and more practical than most. In this outfit, women war workers will not feel self-conscious and ill at ease."


Hello, Denim, Why Don't You Stay a While? (Collier's Magazine, 1942)

The editors at Collier's Magazine could not have known the significance of this subject back in 1942, yet to those Americans born after 1950 who read these old columns, it seems like a sign post that pointed the way to the sportswear of the future. Verily, few are the Americans who tread the fruited plane today who do not see at least one pair of jeans every day. Blue jeans have become the symbol of the nation, just as much as the flag.

This 1940s article pointed out that more and more Americans are waking up to denim. They found that it suited them and deemed it a sensible fabric in light of the new agricultural and industrial toil that needed to be finished if the fascists were to be beaten. However, denim was not some newfangled wartime invention; denim has been on the American scene since 1853 - in the Western gold mines and barnyards, roundhouses and cattle ranges.

Some seven years before this article hit the newsstands American teenagers began wearing jeans, but it was W.W. II that created a market for women's jeans, and for good or ill, the course of American sportswear was forever altered.

A far more thorough fashion history of blue jeans can be read here.


The Pin-On Hairdo: White Trash Triumph (Click Mahazine, 1943)

In light of the fact that we are patriots, we like to think that these hairdos were not as wide-spread on the home front as the journalist implies.

Michel, of the Helena Rubinstein salons, has been fingered as the one responsible for the two-tone "pin-On" hairdo, a look that was entirely reliant upon the false hair industry in order to achieve the preferred look. Three color images are provided as well as six "how-to" images.

During the Second World War, hair dye was not simply used by women; click here to read about the men who needed it.

Click here to read a 1961 article about Jacqueline Kennedy's influence on American fashion.


The Hostess Gown Made a Splash on the Home Front (Click Magazine, 1944)

There can be no doubt that the fashion-craving lasses of the Thirties and Forties had a tough time of it! Coming of age during the the Great Depression, they spent too much time window-shopping as a result of the all too widespread economic deprivations that were the order of the day - only to be greeted on the other end by the fabric rationing that accompanied the Second World War. They had some good news in the form of a swanky garment that was called "Hostess Gowns" which were seen as ultra-feminine and tailored in the finer fabrics of the day:

"Top-notch fashion stores are finding a new wartime boom in luxury hostess gowns and pajamas; new styles for home reflect the latest dress fashion trends. Ruffles, waistline draping, beads, sequins and marabou add luxury; a number of dressy models might also be taken for dinner gowns..."


Were Churchill and Stalin Hipsters? (Click Magazine, 1942)

Illustrated with pictures of Winston Churchill's weird zipper suit and Joseph Stalin's "all purpose costume", 1940s fashion critic Elizabeth Hawes (1903 - 1971) taunts the Great-American-Male and challenges him to respond in kind by wearing copies of these comfortable threads:

"Today's business clothes were worked out by the winners of the Industrial Revolution, whose descendants are the big tycoons of our day...Aspirants to leadership and success normally copy the clothes of existent leaders. Isn't it about time the most of you changed your suits?"

Elizabeth Hawes wrote more on the topic of W.W. II fashions...


Color Trends in Men's Suiting 1935 - 1950 (Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)

Although there is black-out during the war years, the attached charts will give you a sense of the preferred suiting colors both before the war and upon it's immediate conclusion. The pointy-headed soothsayers who attempt to predict which colors men will buy were very surprised to find that in the aftermath of World War II, American men were quite eager to buy browns and khaki-colored suiting after all.


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