1940s Ladies Jackets

Written by nancy hayden
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1940s Ladies Jackets
Ladies jackets were designed to compliment the female form. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Despite government limitations during World War II, the fashions of the 1940s managed to be the height of chic. For much of the decade, restrictions were placed upon both the amount and types of materials used to make clothes. As skirts became less full, more emphasis was placed on the cut and style of women's jackets.


Ladies jackets were cut in several different trendy styles in the '40s. In the beginning of the decade, they were often cut with traditional lines, tailored to be specifically for women but with a rather straight cut. By 1942, jackets for women were becoming more fitted. They were tapered to be narrow at the waist and to flare out below it, accentuating a woman's small waist and curvy hips. Following the war, when restrictions on material were lifted, boxy Esquire jackets came into vogue. These hung loose in a swing style and were often paired with snug pencil skirts.


Jacket lengths also varied in the '40s. Short bolero jackets, which ended below the bust, were in vogue in the first few years of the decade. Straight cut jackets came down and covered a woman's hips, similar to modern-day styles. Boxy swing jackets, too, covered most of the hips. Very tailored jackets were often a bit shorter, darting in at the waist and then ending around the top or middle of a woman's hips. Women often wore shorter jackets with fuller skirts that had more movement, and wore longer jackets with more narrowly cut, snug skirts.

Sleeves and Shoulders

The style of a jacket's sleeves and shoulders added much to its chic drama and set jackets apart from each other. In addition to more formal jackets with long sleeves, styles came into vogue that had short or even cap sleeves, as well as sleeves that ended just above the elbow. These jackets were often worn in summer for more casual outings. Shoulders in '40s jackets were second in size only to '80s jackets in the 20th century. Broad shoulders accentuated a narrow, tailored waist, and many jacket styles included shoulder pads to get the look.


Since materials like wool and silk were replaced with rayon for much of the '40s, and jackets were often designed in sombre colours, other embellishments were added to try to spice up the garments. In addition to puffy or big shoulders, pleats were often added below the shoulders on the jacket front. Belts were quite trendy and were often worn to further highlight a woman's small waist. Jackets were made with only three or four buttons during wartime. Post-war designs often had many buttons for decoration, as well as pockets on the front.

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