Fashion Flashback Friday: the 1940s

Fashion Flashback Friday: the 1940s

World War II affected pretty much everything in the ’40s and fashion is no exception. Fabric rationing forced hemlines higher and silhouettes mimicked Utility styles introduced in Britain. They featured boxy shoulders, a nipped-in waist and knee-length skirts. Necklines were modest and sleeves fell to the elbow or wrist.

Utility dresses
Actress Deborah Kerr in a Utility dress
’40s street style

Popular dress styles included the shirtwaist, the peplum and the wrap, all of which remain popular today.

Shirtwaist dresses
Shirtwaist dresses
Peplum suit
Wrap dresses

Skirts were usually A-line, flaring out from the knee, and somewhere between full and pencil. In 1947, French designer Christian Dior introduced his “New Look,” and based on that, skirts became either very tight or very full.

Dior “New Look” silhouette, full skirt, tiny waist
A Dior pencil skirt

Suits were popular as daywear because they could be mixed and matched if necessary. Blouses featured a V-neck or small rounded peter pan collar.


The 1939 movie version of Gone with the Wind made the princess dress popular for evening. It featured a fitted bodice, long full skirt and puffy sleeves, drop sleeves or no sleeves.

Princess evening gowns

Another popular evening look was a long, gathered column gown with a short dinner jacket.

Evening gown with jacket

Many women couldn’t afford long formal gowns, so semi-formal cocktail dresses were popular. They were frequently modeled after day styles but made from upgraded fabrics.

Cocktail dress

Women’s pants first came into the picture in the ’30s, but in the ’40s they became necessary for women working in factories. Like the ’30s versions, pants were high-waisted with wide legs. It’s also the first time coveralls or overalls are seen for women, again thanks to factory work.


Shoes were more utilitarian in the ’40s than the ’30s and often featured a chunky heel or wedge. Since leather was scarce due to the war, shoes were often made of other materials such as reptile skin.



Popular hat styles included the beret, imported from France, and the turban.


Women working in factories had to keep their hair free from getting caught in machinery so many wore a knitted snood or tied hair up in a scarf.


Rationing affected men’s styles as well. As we saw last week, men’s clothing of the ’30s was aimed at making a dude look big and powerful, but new regulations that dictated cuff and lapel lengths kept suits more fitted.

Slimmer fitting suit

After the war, military styles, such as the trench coat, showed up in civilian closets.

The Zoot Suit, with it’s super baggy fit and bright colors, made its first appearance in the ’30s and was considered unpatriotic during the war years because of all the extra fabric it used. By then it was also associated with gangsters.

Zoot suit couple
Zoot suit couple
Zoot suit caszh
Zooty tux

Despite that, it becomes very popular in the late ’40s and ’50s, which we will investigate next week!

Hope you enjoyed this overview of ’40s fashion. If you want to read more, check out the sites below.

this site
Marie Claire, 1940s Fashion in pics

And if you missed it, you can read about 1920s fashion here and 1930s fashion here.

As always, thanks for reading and catch you next week!

Triad Poster

Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The ’40s

Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The ’40s

Hello historians! Welcome back to our sojourn through the last 100 years. (Just joining us? You can catch up with the 1920s here and the 1930s here.)

It’s the 1940s! We made it through Great Depression, but happy days are decidedly not here again. Japan is rampaging through the Far East, Italy and Spain are being run by murderous dictators, and the Soviet Union – no slouch itself on the dictator front – is flexing its muscles in Finland, the Baltics and Poland. Speaking of Poland, our old pal Hitler dropped in for some pierogies back in ’39 and decided to hang around for awhile.

Here’s a quick recap.


April 9-May 12: Hitler continues his goodwill tour through Europe by invading Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.


May 10: A very grumpy-looking Winston Churchill is elected Prime Minister.

You’d be pissed off too if you had to deal with this Hitler jackass.

July 27: The first modern version of Bugs Bunny appears in Tex Avery’s Oscar-nominated(!) The Wild Hare.

Totes agree about Hitler

Nov 5: FDR is elected to an un’president’ed third term. (I’ll be here all week, folks!)

Don’t make me put you in an internment camp


Oct 9: FDR approves the Manhattan Project, allowing work to begin on the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project is not to be confused with a cappella jazz fusion group the Manhattan Transfer, although both cause immeasurable carnage and suffering.

Oct 31: Crews complete work on Mount Rushmore, giving South Dakota tourists something to do besides count buffalo.

Thank you for being a friend

Dec 7: A “date that will live in infamy.” Japan bombs the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, drawing America into the war and setting the stage for a much cuter invasion 35 years later.

Submit or die


June 4-7: Japan suffers its first substantial defeat at U.S. hands in the Battle of Midway, in what’s widely considered the turning point of the Pacific war. Meanwhile, Japan invades two remote U.S. islands off Alaska in a possible bid to distract American forces from the South Pacific. However, it turns out they were just looking for Uniqlo.


Jan 15: Work is completed on the Pentagon and its sister buildings, the Rhombus (Treasury Dept.), and Octagon (Education Dept.).

July 25: After fucking up campaigns in Greece and North Africa, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini is deposed by his own government.


He’s eventually executed in 1945 after being caught trying to sneak over the Swiss border dressed as Hitler.


June 6: Allied troops storm the beaches of Normandy only to find them littered with trash and hypodermic needles.

Nov 7: FDR elected to a FOURTH term.


April 12: FDR dies suddenly of a brain hemorrhage, but goes on to win re-election in 1948, 1952 and 1956.

April 30: With Allied forces closing in on Berlin, Hitler commits suicide in his bunker after claiming he just needs to “rest his eyes” for a few minutes.


May 7: Germany surrenders, but immediately regroups and begins plotting to invade Czechoslovakia.

Aug 6 & Aug 9: U.S. drops A-Bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Six days later, this happens:


March 5: Churchill give his “Iron Curtain” speech, kicking off the Cold War in style.

San Dimas High School football rules!

July 5: The modern bikini debuts in Paris. The swimsuit is named after recent atomic tests on Bikini Atoll, because nothing says “sassy fun on the beach” like “nuclear war.”


April 15: Jackie Robinson debuts with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player in the major leagues since the 1880s.


First week in July: A “weather balloon” crashes near Roswell, NM.

Six days later, this happens:

Oct 14: American pilot Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier, becoming the “fastest man alive.” Wife Glennis is not amused.

Dec 27: Howdy Doody debuts on NBC…

Then goes on a three-state killing spree


June 20: Ed Sullivan Show premieres. First guests include Elvis, The Beatles, and Sonny & Cher.


Aug 16: Babe Ruth dies and is buried under Fenway Park in a Big Papi jersey.

Nov 2: Dewey does NOT defeat Truman

Again with the #fakenews


April 4: The North Atlantic Treaty is signed in Washington, DC, creating the NATO defense alliance to counter Soviet aggression. In 2013, the alliance is rebranded as SharkNATO to counter Ian Ziering.

June 8: Publication of 1984George Orwell’s dystopian novel about reality show contestants who live in a house together and vie for a job with a shadowy industrialist known only as “Big Brother.” The book goes on to win the Nobel Prize for literature and spawns several spin-offs, including Celebrity 1984 and 1985: Still Watching.

And that, my friends, wraps up the ’40s, which as you can see, was pretty intense. But fear not, because up next, we get pompadours, poodle skirts and prosperity! Stay tuned for…the ’50s!

And we are thisclose to having ticket info available for our April 22 show, Decadent: 100 Years of Burlesque, so be sure to check back often!

See you next time!


Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself (and Possibly Godzilla): The ’30s

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself (and Possibly Godzilla): The ’30s

Hello! Welcome back to our romp through history. Remember all the jazzy fun and debauchery from last week? Well, it’s over. It’s the ’30s. The stock market has crashed, the banks have failed and the crops have dried up. Hitler’s on the rise, a world war looms and worst of all? You still can’t drink legally!  What the F, 1930s?

Luckily, we have distractions in the form of radio, movies and art deco, so at least there are pretty buildings to look at while we’re selling pencils on the street corner.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems, amirite?

Here are some major (and not so major) events of the ’30s:


Aug. 12: Clarence Birdseye invents frozen food. Unfortunately, no one can afford ice so his idea is a bust.


March 3: Congress approves The Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem so we’d have something to fight about on Twitter in 2016.

March 14: Nevada legalizes gambling and Fredo Corleone begins banging cocktail waitresses two at a time.

May 1: After just over a year of construction, the Empire State Building opens, becoming the world’s tallest building until the Twin Towers are topped off in late 1970.

Beloved NYC mascot King Kong arrives in 1934, serving as an ambassador for the city until his purported death at the hands (paws?) of Godzilla in the early ’60s.


Nov 8: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president, introducing the tradition of referring to presidents by their initials.


May 9-June 16: Congress passes FDR’s New Deal, replacing the Old Deal with gluten-free, paleo and vegan options.

Dec 5: Prohibition finally ends with passage of the 21st Amendment and everyone asks themselves what the F they were thinking for the last 13 years.

We were too drunk on bathtub gin to think


March 22: The first Masters golf tournament is held in Georgia, but it fails to make golf any less boring.


June 2: Babe Ruth retires and uses his farewell speech to curse the Boston Red Sox.

Aug 14: Congress passes the Social Security Act, ensuring that future Judge Judy litigants have a means to support themselves when not suing each other over pit bull attacks.


May 30: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is published, romanticizing the Old South, slavery and Rhett Butler.

Butler? I don’t even know ‘er! (#sorrynotsorry)

Aug 1: The Summer Olympics get underway in Berlin as Adolf Hitler tries to pretend he’s just a normal, run-of-the-mill führer and not a homicidal lunatic.

What are you talking about? I love Jews!

American track star Jesse Owens goes on to win four gold medals and inspire Carly Simon’s 1980 hit song Jesse.


May 6: The Hindenburg explodes over Lakehurst, New Jersey, crushing the fledgling airship industry, but eventually giving us Stairway to Heaven.

Anyone else suddenly in the mood for a hot dog?

May 27: The Golden Gate Bridge opens.

And remains open until Godzilla destroys it in 2014


March 12: Still pretending he’s not up to anything nefarious, Hitler annexes Austria.

What are you talking about? I’m just here for the wiener schnitzel.

Oct 30: Orson Welles trolls millions with his #fakenews radio broadcast that Martians have landed in New Jersey and are meeting in Holsten’s with Tony Soprano. Unfortunately, the air goes dead and no one knows for sure what really happened. (Although there is plenty of speculation on Reddit.)


June 12: The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, NY. The first inductees include Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and A-Rod*.

*Definitely not A-Rod.

Sept 1: Hitler invades Poland, kicking off World War II.

What are you talking about? I just really like Chopin.

The good news is, WWII helps to end the Great Depression. The bad news is, everything else. Stay tuned for next week when we move into the 1940s and get to talk about WWII in depth. Until then, thanks for reading and be sure to save the date for April 22 when we will bring you Decadent: 100 years of Burlesque. Check back soon for ticket info!

See you next time!