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Fashion Symbolism in Wartime Attire <br />(Yank Magazine, 1945)Fashion Symbolism in Wartime Attire
(Yank Magazine, 1945)
This was an unusual article for Yank to run with but it is a wonderful read nonetheless. The column concerns fashion as a reliable barometer of societal direction and starts out with a quote from Basil Liddell-Hart (1895 1970) on this issue. The writer then goes to the author and all-around fashion philosopher, Elizabeth Hawes (1903 - 1971) who proceeded to speak thoughtfully on the topic of fashion in wartime. Hawes remarked that the clothing of the leaders can be read as an indicator of forthcoming events.

CLICK HERE to read about the beautiful "Blonde Battalions" who spied for the Nazis...

Women, Fashion and Uniforms on the Home Front <br />(Rob Wagner's Script Magazine, 1942)Women, Fashion and Uniforms on the Home Front
(Rob Wagner's Script Magazine, 1942)
Two short, gossipy paragraphs from a Hollywood literary magazine printed early in the American home front experience concerning women war-workers, fabric rationing and the long-standing debate between ready-made uniforms vs custom-made uniforms:

"Feminine uniforms are causing great dismay. Women of small means complain that while they would like custom-made uniforms, they can't afford them. Nevertheless, designers are doing a capacity business, turning out ultra-chic numbers for those in the money..."

Click here to read an article about women's uniforms during W.W. I.

World War Two Fabric Shortages <br />(Yank, 1945)World War Two Fabric Shortages
(Yank, 1945)
A one page article explaining what fabric rationing was and how it effected the fashion landscape of 1940s America.

Read a 1940s fashion article about fabric restrictions and the War Production Board.

Color Trends in Men's Suiting 1935 - 1950 <br />(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)Color Trends in Men's Suiting 1935 - 1950
(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)
Although there is black-out during the war years, the attached charts will give you a sense of the preferred suiting colors both before the war and upon it's immediate conclusion. The pointy-headed soothsayers who attempt to predict which colors men will buy were very surprised to find that in the aftermath of World War II, American men were quite eager to buy browns and khaki-colored suiting after all.
1940's Sportswear for Men <br />(Collier's Magazine, 1945)1940's Sportswear for Men
(Collier's Magazine, 1945)
Halfway through 1944 American magazines began their individual count-downs until the war's end; running with articles about the post-war world, the end of rationing, the demobilized military and the guaranteed boom that would come in the menswear industry. The attached fashion editorial appeared early in 1945 promotes the versatility of gabardine wool, it's earliest appearance in the Middle ages, it's use in uniforms and it's newest application in sportswear.

The article is illustrated with five terrific color photographs.

When Fashion and Uniforms Meet...<br />(Click Magazine, 1942)When Fashion and Uniforms Meet...
(Click Magazine, 1942)
When the general appearance of women's uniforms prescribed for voluntary war work by various charitable organizations were deemed unfashionable, uncomfortable or simply embarrassing, the well-known fashion stylist and costume designer Irene (Irene Lentz, 1900 - 1962) stepped up to the plate designing an all-purpose green wool suit, topped-off by a beret:

"The noted Hollywood stylist, Irene, performed a real service for defense when she designed her all-around defense suit. Of sturdy gabardine, worn with long cotton service socks and plastic shoes, it is nevertheless as attractive as any civilian suit, and more practical than most. In this outfit, women war workers will not feel self-conscious and ill at ease."

Men's Hats and Shoes <br />(Advertisements, 1942)Men's Hats and Shoes
(Advertisements, 1942)
When the fops answered the call in 1942, these are the hats and shoes they walked away wearing.

You will be able to easily print the attached page of fashion images.

On another note: the legendary fashion designer Christian Dior had a good deal of trouble with people who would illegally copy his designs; click here to read about that part of fashion history.

Were Churchill and Stalin Hipsters? <br />(Click Magazine, 1942)Were Churchill and Stalin Hipsters?
(Click Magazine, 1942)
Illustrated with pictures of Winston Churchill's weird zipper suit and Joseph Stalin's "all purpose costume", 1940s fashion critic Elizabeth Hawes (1903 - 1971) taunts the Great-American-Male and challenges him to respond in kind by wearing copies of these comfortable threads:

"Today's business clothes were worked out by the winners of the Industrial Revolution, whose descendants are the big tycoons of our day...Aspirants to leadership and success normally copy the clothes of existent leaders. Isn't it about time the most of you changed your suits?"

Elizabeth Hawes wrote more on the topic of W.W. II fashions...

The World War Two Origins of the T-Shirt <br />(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)The World War Two Origins of the T-Shirt
(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)
A couple of paragraphs from a popular fashion industry trade magazine that pointed out that the white cotton knit crew-neck garment we call the T-shirt came into this world with the name "quarter sleeve" and had it's origin in the U.S. Navy where it earned it's popularity and soon spread to other branches of the U.S. military during the mid-to-late 1930s. When the war ended in 1945 the T-shirt was the only element of the uniform that American men wanted to keep.

There was another fashion innovations of W.W. II, click here to read about it...

That Slim Wartime Silhouette <br />(Click Magazine, 1943)That Slim Wartime Silhouette
(Click Magazine, 1943)
Five fashion photographs and a few words on the "government-approved" look for the autumn of 1943. The wartime fashion news for 1943 was apparel order L-85 that had been issued by the War Production Board in order to "conserve material for victory".

To read another article about 1940s fashions and the hardships of fabric rationing, click here. Click here to read about the fashion silhouette of the early Fifties.

 W.W. II Button Restrictions and Button Decorations <br />(Click Magazine, 1943) W.W. II Button Restrictions and Button Decorations
(Click Magazine, 1943)
A well-illustrated article from the home front fashion-filled pages of CLICK MAGAZINE that served to document the contradictory days when wartime button-rationing coincided with a wide-spread yen for decorating with buttons:

"In a frantic bid for individuality, fad-loving women are rediscovering the decorative button. Buttons are no longer just a practical devices for holding clothes together. They pep-up simplified silhouettes and restyle dated fashions.

Stockings Go to War <br />(Office of War Information, 1943)Stockings Go to War
(Office of War Information, 1943)
The attached article from 1943 appeared in a number of publications throughout the nation in order to impart to the women (and perhaps a handful of the men) how urgent was the need for their used silk stockings.

More about silk on the W.W. II home front can be read here...

Click here to read about the woman who dictated many of the fabric restriction rules on the home front.

The Hostess Gown Made a Splash on the Home Front <br />(Click Magazine, 1944)The Hostess Gown Made a Splash on the Home Front
(Click Magazine, 1944)
There can be no doubt that the fashion-craving lasses of the Thirties and Forties had a tough time of it! Coming of age during the the Great Depression, they spent too much time window-shopping as a result of the all too widespread economic deprivations that were the order of the day - only to be greeted on the other end by the fabric rationing that accompanied the Second World War. They had some good news in the form of a swanky garment that was called "Hostess Gowns" which were seen as ultra-feminine and tailored in the finer fabrics of the day:

"Top-notch fashion stores are finding a new wartime boom in luxury hostess gowns and pajamas; new styles for home reflect the latest dress fashion trends. Ruffles, waistline draping, beads, sequins and marabou add luxury; a number of dressy models might also be taken for dinner gowns..."

Crochet Made a Come-Back on the W.W. II Fashion Front <br />(Click Magazine, 1943)Crochet Made a Come-Back on the W.W. II Fashion Front
(Click Magazine, 1943)
When home heating fuel had to be rationed during the Second World War, a page was borrowed from Granny's play book and women once again began to sport crochet wraps, shawls and booties around the house.
Hello, Denim <br />(Collier's Magazine, 1942)Hello, Denim
(Collier's Magazine, 1942)
The editors at COLLIER'S MAGAZINE could not have known the significance of this subject back in 1942, yet to those Americans born after 1960 who read these old columns, it seems like a sign post that pointed the way to the sportswear of the future. Verily, few are the Americans who tread the fruited plane today who do not see at least one pair of jeans every day. Blue jeans have become the symbol of the nation, just as much as the flag.

This 1940s article pointed out that more and more Americans are waking up to denim. They found that it suited them and deemed it a sensible fabric in light of the new agricultural and industrial toil that needed to be finished if the fascists were to be beaten. However, denim was not some newfangled wartime invention; denim has been on the American scene since 1853 - in the Western gold mines and barnyards, roundhouses and cattle ranges.

Some seven years before this article hit the newsstands American teenagers began wearing jeans, but it was W.W. II that created a market for women's jeans, and for good or ill, the course of American sportswear was forever altered.

A far more thorough fashion history of blue jeans can be read here.

Neckties During the War Years <br />(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)Neckties During the War Years
(Men's Wear Magazine, 1950)
This is a remarkably brief history of the W.P.B. restrictions on American necktie manufacturers during the Second World War.
The Pin-On Hairdo: White Trash Triumph <br />(Click Mahazine, 1943)The Pin-On Hairdo: White Trash Triumph
(Click Mahazine, 1943)
In light of the fact that we are patriots, we like to think that these hairdos were not as wide-spread on the home front as the journalist implies.

Michel, of the Helena Rubinstein salons, has been fingered as the one responsible for the two-tone "pin-On" hairdo, a look that was entirely reliant upon the false hair industry in order to achieve the preferred look. Three color images are provided as well as six "how-to" images.

During the Second World War, hair dye was not simply used by women; click here to read about the men who needed it.

Click here to read a 1961 article about Jacqueline Kennedy's influence on American fashion.

The Hats for the Fall  <br />(Click Magazine, 1942)The Hats for the Fall
(Click Magazine, 1942)
Here is a an Elizabeth Hawes (1903 1971) fashion review covering some of the hats for the autumn of 1942. They were all the creations of John-Frederics (1902 1993) - some are simply fantastical while others are a tad less dramatic, but not lacking in style.

Click here to read about the hats of 1947.

The Hat Superstition that was Reliable... <br />(Pathfinder Magazine, 1945)The Hat Superstition that was Reliable...
(Pathfinder Magazine, 1945)
As far as superstitions and clothing are concerned, hats seem to be the one garment that has the most unfounded and irrational precepts attached to their existence. Plentiful are the dictates pertaining to where hats should never be placed or worn - these superstitions existed centuries before the Second World War, but for one citizen of San Angelo, Texas, he had his own beliefs where hats are concerned and some believed that, as a result, he was able to save the lives of 56 American servicemen...
Paris Fashion Liberated <br />(Tricolor Magazine, 1944)Paris Fashion Liberated
(Tricolor Magazine, 1944)
New York fashion journalist Gertrude Bailey wasted no time in applying for her overseas press pass upon hearing the news that the Germans had been driven from the banks of the Seine in August of '44. Although the fashion column she filed largely anticipated the glorious return of Paris chic, mention was also made of what Paris fashion was like during the German occupation - sitting ringside at one of the runways, Bailey found that

"One found significance in the appearance of green as a color, and noted that the reason it had been absent for four years was because it was the color of the German uniform, which no Frenchwoman would wear until France was free."

When Ingenuity Out-Witted Scarcity <br />(Click Magazine, 1942)When Ingenuity Out-Witted Scarcity
(Click Magazine, 1942)
A well illustrated wartime review concerning what the women of fashion can do to enhance life in spite of the government shortages.
The Ike Jacket Goes Mainstream <br />(Collier's Magazine, 1944)The Ike Jacket Goes Mainstream
(Collier's Magazine, 1944)
In their book about American soldiers in the war-torn Britain of W.W. II, Overpaid, Over-Sexed and Over Here (1991), authors James Goodson and Norman Franks recall how thoroughly impressed Americans were with the standard issue British Army uniform. The Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, was no exception - he promptly ordered his tailor to suit him in a similar get-up. Other American generals followed in his path as did the cocky young pilots of the Army Air Corps - shortly there after the look soon spread to other branches of the Army. This 1944 article discusses the broad appeal of this jacket and that civilian fashion designers had begun manufacturing the "Ike Jacket" for the Home Front.
Home Front Lingerie <br />(Click Magazine, 1944)Home Front Lingerie
(Click Magazine, 1944)
Here is a small article, illustrated with five fashion images, about the types of intimate apparel and pajamas that were available to the home-sewing girls on the W.W. II American home front.

Click here to learn about the under garments that had to be worn to pull-off the "New Look"...

Fashion Police <br />(American Magazine, 1943)Fashion Police
(American Magazine, 1943)
Who was it who deprived men of their suit vests and trouser cuffs? Who banned silk stockings? Who outlawed the "flow" in "flowing skirts"? Why, it was the War Production Board of course - click the title link if you want a name and a face...
The Zoot Suit <br />(Newsweek Magazine, 1942)The Zoot Suit
(Newsweek Magazine, 1942)
This article tells of the origin and fast times of the zoot suit. Although the garment was popularized by Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, it had it's origins in Harlem, New York, where it was known as the "root suit".
A Patriotic Argument for Shorter Skirts <br />(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)A Patriotic Argument for Shorter Skirts
(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)
Months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Washington was gearing-up for the fight by restricting the availability of certain fabrics to the fashion industry and diverting these materials to the defense industry. This started an open discussion in fashion circles as to whether it would simply be best to raise the hemlines until the national emergency was over.

"The Fashion Originators Guild termed shorter skirts silly and added that dresses 'are just as short today as decency and grace will permit."

Silk Disappears From The Shelves <br />(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)Silk Disappears From The Shelves
(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)
Five months before The United States entered the war, the government in Washington had foresight enough to remove silk from the consumer market. Silk would be badly needed for the manufacturing of parachutes and gunpowder bags.

More about silk on the W.W. II home front can be read here...

Novelty ''Victory Fashion'' Makes An Appearance <br />(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)Novelty ''Victory Fashion'' Makes An Appearance
(Newsweek Magazine, 1941)
It's hard to believe - but "Victory Fashion" hit the American home front before it was even called the "home front". However by mid-1941 Americans were pretty outraged by fascist aggression: the U-boats, London bombed, Nanking ravaged, France invaded - the list goes on. When this article went to print, we were not in the war but we were firmly on the Allied side. The word "victory" made its way into fashion circles and the nation's couturiers began turning out novelty accessories and garments. Even the hairdressers contributed.