Children's Clothes in 1942

Updated April 15, 2017

World War II dominated children's clothing in 1942. Fabrics and styles changed to fit the rationing needs of the country. Supporting the troops included rationing items that needed to go to the war effort. Items such as food, metal, paper products, fabric, and shoes were included. The war affected children's clothing styles through rationing that dictated design, colour and size.


The federal government issued the General Limitation Order L-85 that restricted the use of materials and design in clothes making. Before the war, natural fibres like wool and cotton were often used. The restriction of wool saw rayon fibres used in its place. A new fabric blend called Aralac, made of milk protein fibres, was sold to replace wool, according to Historic Boys Clothing. The new blend did not do well because people complained that it smelled like sour milk when it got wet. Styles with pant cuffs, wide hems and wide collars in children's clothing were regulated.


Little girl's dresses had two basic designs; vertical and combination. The vertical or straight design does not show a waist. It has a rounded collar and darted seams in the front, making the dress flair out. The dress was simple, buttoned down the front with short or long sleeves. The combination dress had a gathered waistline, full skirt and rounded collar with puffy sleeves. Slips were worn underneath. Lace and ruffled accessories placed on dresses and blouses were restricted. Clothing appeared plain, a reminder of the war effort.


Young boys wore knickers, a trouser that ended just below the knee, before the war. The styles changed during the war replacing the knickers with shorts and long trousers. Pleats were restricted as well as the number of pockets. A new fashion emerged during 1942 that began as an underwear garment -- the T-shirt. Shoes were still made of leather with laces and winter boots fit over the shoes. Infants wore gowns made from cotton and flannel. Seeing baby boys in gowns

until they began to walk was not unusual.


Coats and hats for children included wool blends with buttons. Short lengths were made to save on fabric. Infant and toddler clothing carried less restrictions. Extra clothing such as leggings was allowed. Hats for girls included hoods that covered the head and ears. They were separate from the coats and tied under the chin. Young boys wore hats with ear coverings.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Vickie Van Antwerp began her career as a technical writer for a consulting firm in 1987. Now a freelance writer in her fields of interest, her writings appear on, and in "The Phelps Connection" and "The Storyteller." Van Antwerp holds an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from Gloucester County College and certification as a surgical technologist from Lenoir College.