Clothes & Fashion During the 1940s

Written by alane michaelson
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Clothes & Fashion During the 1940s
During World War II, many women worked in factories while men served in the military overseas. ( Images)

Fashion took a back seat in the 1940s during World War II. Gone were the glamorous days of the 1920s; in came expensive cloth, shortages of wool and a lack of dyes. The war years focused on practicality and preserving resources, like clothing. When creating a costume based in the 1940s, remember that practically everyone in the U.S. was involved in the war effort.

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Fabric & Material

Dye, clothing items and cloth were rationed in the 1940s to ensure there was plenty of materials for soldiers' uniforms. Wool was severely limited in the 1940s, so artificial fabrics like viscose and rayon were commonly used for civilian clothing. Shoes were also limited at the time because of a shortage of leather. Many women work cork-soled clogs. Women's accessories included hair coverings for working in factories, homemade scarves and knitted gloves.


The motto of the 1940s was "Make Do and Mend;" women would even make wedding dresses out of nightgowns. High fashion became less important, and designers made practical work clothing for women while using less material and fewer buttons. Designs were angular and masculine, and many women recycled clothing for several years.

Men's Clothing

Military outfits were commonly worn by men at home in WWII during special events and weddings. Civilian clothing included recycled suits, sweater vests and knitted waist coats. One trendy men's fashion item was the zoot suit, known for being oversized with tapered pant legs.


After the war, the last few years of the decade saw new clothing items and fresh fashionable designs. Women in the post-war years wore more feminine clothing, with wide skirts and cinched waists. Narrow skirts were commonly worn by women who couldn't afford more fabric. For men, the post-war years included broad, loosefitting suit jackets, sportswear and Hawaiian-style shirts.

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