Plus Size Women's Fashions in the 1940s

Written by jennifer eblin
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Women's fashions change frequently, but clothing from the 1940s has a classic and timeless look. Clothing from this time period often accentuated the gentle curves of a woman's body, whether she was svelte or plus-size. Women's plus-size fashions from the 1940s still have a great look today that appeals to many women. Choose original vintage clothing or modern-day clothing designed to look vintage.


The 1940s saw the United States enter World War II, which caused some materials to be rationed. Following the end of the War, certain materials were once again used in clothing designs. Vintage clothing is often made from rayon, cotton, jersey or knit. Women with more money could afford more expensive materials, including silk. Women who worked in factories and other male-dominated industries during the war were fans of denim and cotton because the materials held up to the frequent movement and work.


Dresses worn during the 1940s resemble what are now called shirt dresses. Dresses featured short sleeves and fell to below the knee or stopped at the knee. The dresses were designed to accentuate the shape of a woman's body and her curves. Many dresses came with an attached belt, which the woman tightened to show off her hourglass shape. Plus-size women also wore shift dresses that fell to the knee or lower and had short or long sleeves. If the woman wanted to show off her curves, she added a belt or scarf tied around the waist. Formal dresses were typically floor length, though some stopped at mid-calf.

Women's Shoes

Shoes from the 1940s featured unique bottoms, including cork, mesh and reptile skin. The government stopped the use of leather and other materials because those items were needed for the war effort. The government also mandated that heel heights be 1 inch or less and regulated the colours used. Following the war, women began wearing wedge shoes and platform shoes. The shoes elongated the leg and emphasised the calf muscles, making legs look longer and sleeker.

Underneath the Clothes

Plus-size women often wore girdles as a way of keeping their curves under control. The girdles fit under the clothes, giving the body a sleek shape. Panties reached the belly button or higher, for more control. Bullet bras were also common and featured two cone shapes at the top that held the woman's breasts in place.

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