Women's dress styles in the 1940s

Written by jen oda
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Women's dress styles in the 1940s
1940s suits were long enough to cover the knee but short enough to save on fabric. (blonde in black suit on white background image by Andrey Chmelyov from Fotolia.com)

The 1940s was greatly affected by World War II and the Great Depression. Women's fashion reflects the hardship and moral of the times. Dark muted colours and conservative fitting, practical clothes marked the generation. Surprisingly, however, the 40s are celebrated for their style. Somehow even in the midst of scarcity, women of the 1940s managed to keep themselves classy and beautiful.

Siren Suit

The Siren Suit was a large jump suit with a zipper down the front. It was named the "Siren Suit" because it was used to throw over pyjamas in the middle of the night when air raid sirens screamed that civilians should run for shelter. Winston Churchill and Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth both owned siren suits.

Utility Clothing

Due to World War II, many women of the 1940s were forced to go to work in factories to support themselves and their families while their husbands were in battle. The Incorporated Society of Fashion Designers group created 30 different utility clothing designs which gave women basic work suit options. Women wore slightly contoured suit jackets and knee-length conservative skirts, similar to officer skirts of the 21st century.

Shoulder Pads

Shoulder pads were worn throughout the 1940s in women's fashion. Imitating the military uniform look, much of women's wear was made stronger and more masculine with shoulder pads. They were sewn into dresses, shirts and suits. They tapered off in 1949 allowing natural shoulders with a more feminine look.


Women's shoes, like the rest of their wardrobe were practical. Leather and other animal materials were expensive and unavailable during wartime. Cork was used to make women's shoes. It provided lightweight, comfortable wearable heels suitable for the work environment. Women wore wedged heels and clogs instead of high heels in the 40s.

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