Clothing for Southern Americans in the 1940s

Updated March 23, 2017

Women's clothing for southern Americans in the 1940s can be divided into three distinct periods, the early, mid and late 1940s, as each period had its own distinctive flair. The shift began during World War II in which the style signified the darkness of this particular time in history. Southern America consists of the following 16 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Early 1940s

With the end of the Depression, southern American women purchased patterns and clothing to make full skirts with flare that covered just the knee. Double-breasted blouses and decorative blouses were added to clothing. House-dresses had a tailored look that complimented feminine features and special attention was given to collars, sleeves and style lines. Stripes and plaids became popular pattern choices. For outings, women wore small hats with netting that hung over their face. High-fashion women wore larger hats. Young girls and teenagers, typically with saddle shoes, were wearing white ankle socks, known as ankle socks.


Women wore skirt suits for special events. Because women worked on the farms or factories during wartime, they began wearing trousers and overalls. Blue overalls were standard wear for farm girls. Southern belles had many rules regarding their clothing and wearing trousers constituted them as a tomboy or as a "loose woman." The need to wear trousers during wartime made it more acceptable attire for southern women. Dresses, blouses, shirts and coats had shoulder square shoulder pads with a military feel n plain solemn colours. Clothing rations for nylon, silk and wool limited the types of material available.

Late 1940s

After the war ended, blouses became more form-fitting with emphasis placed on the bust. Petticoats were worn under full flared skirts designed to swing out when jitterbugging. The vertical and wide shoulders gave way to a more feminine line. Gloves remained popular throughout the 1940s but near the end of the decade, they took on a more casual look. Fashionable women often preferred a formal suit to a dress. They wore gloves and a hat when frequenting places such as the Kentucky Derby.


In the early 1940s, southern American men who worked on the farms generally wore overalls. For men who went to school or had office jobs, typical attire was B-necked sweater vests or knitted waistcoats over a shirt and tie. For a period, men began wearing zoot suits in nightclubs. It consisted of tapered, tight-cuffed trousers with an oversized long jacket with wide lapels. In 1947, Florida men began wearing Hawaiian shirts, which swept the south as well as the nation. The late 1940s introduced the Esquire jacket, a loosefitting double-breasted suit jacket with broad shoulders.

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Cyndi Bass has been writing professionally since 2000. She specializes in writing about self-help, weight loss, health, credit, families, parenting and government assistance programs. Her experience includes ghostwriting for numerous websites, blogs and newsletters. She has worked in social services in the credit industry and she holds a human service certificate from the University of California at Davis.