Happy VE Day!
It’s VE day this Friday marking 75 years since the end of the Second World War. Its hard to imagine the hardship of those times as we scroll through content on our mobile phones and arrange to get our shopping delivered because we can’t go out because we’re self-isolating!
It got us thinking here at Klass, and we wanted to look at what fashion was like in the 40’s, in the time of the war. What were the key trends? How have we evolved? What have we learned?
The key was to create an hourglass shape, so nipped in waist and bigger padded shoulders and high waist trousers and shirts to balance that shape.
Even if you were not naturally that shape, the clothes helped you achieve that look and there was even “stout” sizing for larger ladies available. Plus, this was also the start of fashion tips and advice in catalogues.
Today’s take on military fashion might be camouflage utility trousers. In the 1940’s women wanted to reflect the war effort in their fashion, and they did this through square, padded shoulders to create a masculine look.
Fabric shortages meant that skirt lengths, which had, in the 1930’s reached the mid-calf, now shrank up to the knee. Plus, skirts did not have any excess fabric in them, meaning pleats were a no-no. Instead skirts were A line.
The other key fashion at this time was skirts and corresponding jackets, all worn with white shirts or blouses enabling women to mix and match their look so they had a different outfit everyday. Not only did this maximise limited fashion options at the time, but these outfits were comfy and popular too and continued to be favoured long after the war ended. It was even acceptable put different jackets with non matching skirts to achieve a new look. The one constant was modesty, no cleavage allowed in those days!
The Introduction of Trousers
Before the 1940’s it was the men that wore the trousers – but as with so many other things that changed in gender roles during this period, it also extended to fashion. With men off to war, women kept the cogs of the country turning by working in factories and farming the land.
This work meant that women needed to wear practical clothing to protect themselves and so saw the introduction of trousers for women. These were high-waisted and wide legged.
Who would have thought that these were ever desirable as a design piece! Overalls were the go to for the women who farmed the land, practical and sturdy, these overalls were soon adopted widely as a casual addition to the wardrobe.
During the war, womens shoes were fashioned out of other materials because leather was needed for the war effort – velvet, reptile skin and even wood was the order of the day and the styles were plain and simple with a stumpy solid heel – perfect for any occasion!
We rarely wear a hat these days unless it’s dealing with extreme weather! In the 1940s hats were still very much the order of the day – berets were hugely popular influenced by gay Paris!. There were also the small turban style hats with a small veil or embellishment.
Under those hats the hair was important too – gentle cascading curls to the shoulder was the order of the day for younger women. Whereas older women preferred to style their hair in victory rolls. Working women would have to tie their hair back in nets.
Certainly there wasn’t the choice there is now and fashion was carefully considered with all items from your wardrobe maximised to make it work harder… though I guess these days our fabrics are softer and we don’t have to wear girdles!