Fashion Journal: 1940-1949

All decades of fashion history are interesting, but now that we’re getting into the 1940s, I am getting especially excited! My style is a mixture of retro, metal, and psychobilly, so I draw a lot of inspiration from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I even have some true vintage accessories from these decades, which I have mentioned in other posts related to fashion. With the emergence of World War II, all industries found themselves affected, and that includes the fashion industry. In Britain, clothes were even rationed during the years of the second World War, and many women actually painted seams on their legs because they couldn’t afford nylon stockings!

Left: Two-piece, 1945

On a happier note, the 1940s did bring with it some very exciting fashion developments. The two-piece, for example, quickly took off to become one of the most iconic designs of all time. On the left, take a look at this vibrantly-colored two-piece bathing suit worn by Gene Tierney in 1945. The two-piece swimsuit was so important to fashion (and feminism) because it actually drew attention to the womanly figure- something that society had tried to hide in previous generations. Interestingly, the “bikini” was named after the Bikini Atoll, which was the site of a nuclear bomb test in 1946.

Left: Woman in Hungary, 1943

The 1940s also brought a variety of different colors, shapes, and patterns to women’s dresses. Take a look at this colorful portrait of a woman in the mid 1940s, and just how similarly Modcloth has captured the look in their modern reproduction. Knee-length dresses were especially popular at this time, along with “shirtdress” details and tailoring. A shirtdress, as you may have guessed, is a dress that draws inspiration from a man’s shirt (including the collar and lapels). While the more modern dress has swapped the tailored collar for a simple v-neck, the similarities in shape, color, and length are still there.

Left: Man in overcoat, 1945

Now, let’s touch upon men’s fashion during this decade. Overcoats were very popular for men at this time, and really, they haven’t changed much over the course of seventy years. While colorful clothing was popular for men in the 1920s, this had fallen out of fashion by the 1940s, and men reverted back to wearing neutral, subdued colors. 1940s suits differed from previous generations in that shoulders were more padded, and the waist was slightly nipped. The overall goal of the suit was to emphasize the man’s figure, while still remaining tailored and clean. The coat on the right, designed by Reiss, resembles the classic 1940s overcoat in regards to color, cut, and length that the coat falls to. To me, they look like they both could have come from the same decade.

What’s your favorite piece from today? I personally love the vibrant shirtdress-inspired Modcloth dress, but then again, I love anything Modcloth puts out!


Shrimpton, J (2014). Fashion in the 1940s. Oxford: Shire Publications. p. 19.

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