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August 2, 2018

Early '40s Fashion: A Look Back on Women's Clothing During the Second World War

It is worthless to discuss fashion of the forties without first understanding the tremendous impact World War II had on everyday life during the early part of the decade. Social trends dictated fashion, World War II changed the world of fashion forever.

The true hallmarks of fashion in the early 1940s included an austere silhouette with narrow hips, padded shoulders, and all manner of hats. The working-class look of icons such as Rosie the Riveter became chic, as women of all social standings joined the war effort. They kept things going at home, taking over the jobs – and the closets – of husbands and other male relatives. Class barriers fell and people dressed down. It was considered gauche to be showy during a time of shortage.

Women's fashion trends in the early 1940s

Many varieties of peplums were in vogue: butterfly, bustle and gathered peplums were a few. Ruffles found their way to skirt hems, necklines and waists. Gored, gathered and A-line skirts were topped with soft, feminine blouses. Blouses donned bows at the center-front neckline and might sport full or puffy sleeves. Collars were cut generously full, in peter pan and traditional pointed shirt-collar designs. Lace also accentuated blouses around the neckline.

Take a look at these glamorous photos to see what women's fashion trends in the early 1940s looked like.

Models are wearing dresses and matching caps by Nettie Rosenstein and jewelry by Tiffanys, photographed by Horst P. Horst for Vogue, 1940

Babe Paley wearing drop-shouldered blue wool dress, hat and yellow crocheting bag, photographed by John Rawlings, 1941

Dorothy Shapard, a student at Vassar, wearing a career classic blue grey wool dress with a plaid jacket in blue, grey, red and black, 1941

Loretta Young posed in white slack suit upon wicker stair, 1941

Model in chartreuse felt hat with roses and hummingbirds, purple gloves, and purple veil and ribbons, 1941

Model is wearing a dinner-sheath of water-marked silk, with Chinese lines, 1941

Model wearing yellow-gold tweed suit and tiny hat, 1941

Model with hand at chin, wearing cerise and yellow tulips, a green and gold turban, and a gold sweater, 1941

Vogue goes to the Grand Canyon, 1941

Model is wearing a small pink silk jersey sailor worn on top of a pill-box-and-snood of navy-blue cord, 1942

Model in fur coat holding a gift, New York, December 1943

Model wearing red pattern dress, beige-green Novo gloves, and a honey-beige beret with netting, standing at desk with open calendar, 1943

Two models are wearing gingham checked dresses with matching purses, by Jane Engel, 1943

Footlights ballet slippers, photographed by John Rawlings, 1944

Model in a soft caniche brown dress with white stitching in Super-Zealand wool jersey, by Huxley, 1944

Model in gold hockanum wool Melcora with gold rose buttons Echo scarf, Sideswept hat, Dawnelle gloves, 1944

Model wearing black dress accessorized by neutral colored items, 1944

Model wearing gray tweed suit, holding platinum fox coat, both from Hattie Carnegie, 1944

Model wearing veiled hat by Walter Florell, lipstick by Chen Yu, 1944

Model wearing Vera Maxwell's camel-colored back-buttoned suit, 1944

A scarf designed by expressionist painter Felix Topolski, 1945

Actress Joan Tetzel, 1945

Liz Benn in Claire McCardell, photographed by Serge Balkin, 1945

Model wearing a summer suit, Charm Magazine, May 1945

Model wearing black veiled hat with roses, black short-sleeved dress from Trigere together with silk scarf crowded with roses, 1945

Model wearing halter-topped pleated white rayon dress from Tina Leser, 1945

Woman outside of bookstore photographed by Constantin Joffé, New York, 1945

Women in rayon pastel dresses, New York, May 1945



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