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1940s wardrobe essentials

Discussion in 'The Powder Room' started by imported_miss_molly, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. Hello everyone! :D

    I'm new to the forum - and to vintage - but I have been lurking for a while and think this forum is simply wonderful.

    I just have a quick question for you ladies - since I am relatively new to vintage fashion but really love 1940s style, I was wondering what you consider to be the essentials of a 1940s wardrobe in terms of clothes and accessories?

    Your advice would be very much appreciated! :)
  2. Lareesie Ladavi

    Lareesie Ladavi One of the Regulars


    Personally, I think it's about the hair and makeup. A tube of red lipstick(don't forget the lip liner!) and false eyelashes are what pulls it together. As far as clothing goes...a pencil skirt is an easy thing to find and always makes me think of the 40s.
  3. I wanna say there is already a thread about this but, I cant find it. Maybe a bartender will have better luck.
    So, 40s where all about sportswear seperates. Skirts and blouses mixed with sweater vests, jackets, sweaters etc etc. The lipstick and hair is one part of it. Most people only had a few good dresses but most of the wardrobe was made up of seperates b/c it made more sense with rationing in effect. You could stretch your points further. Good accesories are a must! Get black and brown accesories and make sure they all match and you will never have to worry about matching your accesories again! Thats all for now, I will elaborate later if needed. Hope that helped.

  4. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

    You may be thinking about this one. But alas, there is not one. I think this one fits the bill, but since there is a 50s basic wardrobe thread, I had a feeling this query was not too far away.

    Just some period things to consider. The 40s was a war time period in fashion. There were not a lot of the bells and whistles that you will find in other periods. A lot of reusing and re fashioning.

    No zippers, no nylons, but of course you can take liberties ;)
    Skirts were gored and hit just below the knee, it was all about rationing. Very few pin-tucks, or over abundance of gathers, no fabric, no frills. Fabrics like wool, rayon, cotton, and fabric types like crape were in.
    The box cut of clothes for ladies, heavy shoulders, clean efficient design.
    Gloves and scarves. Working gear, overalls and mens work shirts. Head scarves, snoods, short sleeve sweaters, and bobby socks with skirts.

    As far a jewelry goes, check out this thread.

    Check out the books about the looks sticky in Beauty. Im sure there are TONS of ideas there.

  5. Just to add a bit to LD's comments above -- you can divide the '40s up into three distinct periods, really: pre-war, wartime, and postwar. Up thru about 1941 (or 1940, in the UK and Commonwealth) was pretty much a continuation of the late thirties -- you had fitted bodices but a bit of flare in skirts, which tended to fall a ways below the knee. Wartime, once clothes rationing came into force at the end of 1942, clothes got much more *efficient* -- styles were no-nonsense, just-below-the-knee skirts, minimal trimmings, no fancy pleats, no fussy foo-foo. Postwar, beginning in 1947 the "New Look" hit, which did a complete u-turn from the wartime aesthetic -- long, full skirts, tightly cinched waists, outlandish shoes, and lots and lots of foo-foo.

    Of all these, the wartime look is probably considered the definitive one, and from a daily wear perspective, it's also the most practical. Along with the suggestions above, there were lots of cotton day dresses -- nicer than housedresses, but still washable and efficient. The typical woman of the day would have had several of these for everyday in-town wear, along with a good conservatively-tailored suit or two for dressier occasions. It was very common to wear the jacket from a suit over a cotton day dress to give a more formal look without going the full route of a suit.

    Generally, a woman would own two long coats: a lighter one for spring and fall, and a heavier one for winter. Lightweight jackets (the so-called "49er" style, although they were around long before 1949) were also popular for casual warm-weather wear.

    Depression-habits died hard, and as LD says, a lot of clothing got reused and recycled. Most women of the day knew how to sew, and it was not at all rare to find a lady wearing a suit that had actually been cut down and resewn from one of her husband's discards.

    Shoe-wise, most women might have, as a minimum, a good pair of black dress pumps, a pair of black or brown low-heeled oxfords for everyday, and perhaps something in white for summer. Saddle oxfords and brown loafers were popular casual shoes, especially for younger women.

    Pants were not unheard of, but a lot depended on where you lived. In the city, you wouldn't get a second glance, but in a small town, there would likely be comments. It was during the mid-forties that teenage girls began wearing rolled blue jeans, usually with an oversize men's shirt with drooping tails, and this was widely viewed as a sign of the coming Apocalypse...
  6. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Yes! Exactly! Pick an era in an era if you like :)

  7. exquisitebones

    exquisitebones A-List Customer

    OOH! I think this will bea great thread.
    Lizzie, I loved read that! Thanks for the info!
  8. newtovintage

    newtovintage One of the Regulars

    What about foundation/under garments? What would the average woman have in her closet?
  9. Well, there was no such thing as "low cut" panties or thongs -- you had a choice between full briefs, tap pants ("step ins") or bloomers, made of silk, rayon, or cotton. These would be worn *over* your girdle -- they were cut full enough that this worked fine. You'd always wear a girdle of some kind, usually an open-bottom model, and depending on how old you were and how much support you needed, it could be anything from a very simple Lastex-and-cotton pull-on model to a very heavy lace-up garment made of stiff boned canvas. Girls began to wear girdles in their early teens, and rarely went without them thereafter. Garter belts were available, but they tended to be a good bit sturdier and more girdle-like than the bedroom belts sold today.

    Bras were usually far less structured and more utilitarian in style than those today -- the idea of cup sizes was just coming into popularity. If you were not amply endowed, "falsies" made of foam rubber were commonly worn.

    Sheer stockings were hard to come by during the war years -- nylon and silk hose could be found on the black market, but the dressiest thing most women could find was rayon mesh, which tended to bag and wrinkle, hence the popularity of "leg makeup" as an alternative in warm weather. For everyday, you'd wear cotton lisle stockings, and in the winter, blends of cotton and wool.

    Slips were always worn with dresses -- the average woman would have several in variations of silk, rayon, or cotton. Since most homes didn't have central heating, it was common to layer for warmth -- you might wear a rayon slip closest your skin, and then top that with a cotton slip in the winter, or you might add various types of chemises, or even a short-legged sleeveless union suit over your bra and underpants, and then wear your slip over that.
  10. LelaViavonie

    LelaViavonie Practically Family

    This is some amazing information.. keep it comming ladies :)
  11. I would LOVE to find one of these to wear under dresses in the winter! Any ideas where to find one?
  12. Lizzie has said most of what I was going to say and then some!

    You might want to think about if you are going for an American look or an English look. English women were more conservative in their dress, trousers were not generally worn outside of factory work or gardening, for example. Several cotton frocks for summer, wool skirts and jumpers, blouses for winter and a suit or two if you were lucky. You would also have been lucky to have more than one winter and summer coat. Lisle stockings and shoes with 'sensible' heels, often lace ups (in winter) and bare legs with sandals (in summer) would be the norm for Wartime.

    Of course people had clothes pre-war before rationing but not in the quantities we have today. At least we can have plenty of choice. :)
  13. [​IMG]

    From the Sears Fall and Winter 1942 catalog.

    Nobody that I know of today makes anything like this, but I'd love to find a pattern -- they'd be really cozy in a soft flannel.
  14. LelaViavonie

    LelaViavonie Practically Family

    Oh my goodness.. those look so warm.. I could use a pair right now :)
  15. Lareesie Ladavi

    Lareesie Ladavi One of the Regulars

    Those are a trip. I'm wondering about the bathroom situation...Do you think they snap?
  16. They had a one-button-flap seat for dealing with necessities.
  17. Lareesie Ladavi

    Lareesie Ladavi One of the Regulars

    I love the idea of them being flannel. I love flannel anything!
  18. exquisitebones

    exquisitebones A-List Customer

    a pattern for those would be fantastic, if anyone tracks on down they should share :) :) :)
  19. newtovintage

    newtovintage One of the Regulars

    Thank you so much!

    Lizzie, your reply was absolutely wonderful. It was just what I need to know & then some. I always love reading your posts as well as so many of the other FLers posts. I have learned massive amounts of information since I joined and can't wait to learn more.
  20. MarieAnne

    MarieAnne Practically Family

    I have a knitting pattern for something like this. I'll have to scan it.

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