For both men and women fashions in the 1940’s were a time of practical comfort and simple elegance. War rationing limited fabric choices and designs but even after the war the styles didn’t change much. Here is a quick overview of common fashion designs in the 1940’s.
1940’s women wore either dresses, two piece suits, skirts and blouses or occasionally pants. The dress was shaped like an hour glass. The shoulders were wide and padded, narrowed down the bodice to a tight waist and then flared out moderately to an A-line skirt ending at the low knee. This was the shape of the decade. Designs were simple and uncluttered with fancy trims or decorations. Colors were earthy in the early 40’s and bright and pattered in the late 40’s.
Two Piece suits were very popular in the 1940’s. The skirt was A -line with minimal pleating and centered around the high waist (above the bellybutton.) The Suit jacket was shaped like a dress, with two or three big buttons down the front, square shoulders, and fitted at the waist. The bolero jacket was another jacket variation worn over a blouse.
Blouses had padded shoulders, puffy loose sleeves, and they tapered at the wrist for long sleeves and ended just above the elbow for shorter sleeves. They could be plain light colors or fun striped patterns. Many women knit their own blouses and sweaters.
With clothing being plain the accessories were big, colorful, bold and vibrant with patterns and textures. “Costume Jewelry” was all the rage with women along with fun plastic clutch purses. Hats were either small and decorated or large and simple, many with veils that hung over the face and underneath the chin. Shoes were plain, “chunky,”pumps, wedges or oxfords. Even sandals took on a similar heavy look.
1940’s men had little variety to their wardrobe. A basic two or three piece suit with wide lapels, flat or small pleated front pants, wide legs, and a fedora hat were all that was needed for any man. Casual Hawaiian shirts became very popular in the late 1940’s. In winter women would knit sweaters for their men.
Hats and shoes were the best part of the 1940’s. Much like today’s men’s shoes oxford, brogues and formal loafers because everyday footwear. The fedora was by far the most common hat. Other hats like bowlers, panama straws, and porkpies were frequently worn. Colors ranged from black or navy to various shades of grey.
Two 1940’s rebels- the gangsters and the Zoot Suit rioters were a small fashion niche. Gangsters actually wore the same suits as any 1940’s man did. Usually they are portrayed in movies as dark suited villons with trench coats and black fedora’s. Gangsters, usually being wealthy, dressed in very high end clothing in a variety of dark and light colors. Zoot Suiters were young urban city men (and women) that wore very brightly colored oversize suit jackets, baggy pants that tapered at the ankles, and either slick back hair or extra wide brimmed fedoras. They set themselves apart with their own style that most adults found to be disrespectful.