Hello again dearies! I’m getting a bit of a late start today, and, oh, there is SO much to do before Christmas gets here! But let’s take a few minutes to step back in time to the 1940’s and take a look at what they wore back then for the special time of year that we find ourselves in at the present.
Don’t you just love, love, love that fabulous blue shirtwaist dress at the top?! If I could get my hands on some lovely blue wool I would make it in a heartbeat! But let’s talk about silhouette, shall we?
The 1940’s silhouette and styles stayed relatively the same from 1940 to 1946/47 on account of World War II. That makes it a bit easier for us who are seeking to take inspiration from the era as a whole, but harder for the historians among us to pinpoint when exactly what style of particular dress was worn. The basic silhouette was a sturdy shouldered, what I would call capable, practical look; shoulders were padded, and skirts were typically of an a-line shape.
On account of rationing, skirts couldn’t be very full, and hemlines hit just below the knee. For Winter fashions they were typically wool or some thick rayon/wool blend, and would most likely coordinate or match an accompanying jacket.
Another result of rationing is the surge in accessories, hats, and small jewelry among them. Accessories helped to broaden an otherwise narrow wardrobe, taking one suit from Spring right through Winter, and back again. Garments would also be trimmed with small details such as spangles (see the red jersey top in the second to last picture), mainly after the war, or self fabric details such as little bows, fun pockets, etc. You can take a look at my Just the Small Details board for vintage and modern garment detail inspiration.
Dresses were popular in this time, and sweaters were used to extend the seasonal life of a dress as long as possible. Separates were catching on as a good way to get as much wear, and different looks, out of as few pieces as possible. Just think what you could do with a skirt suit, two blouses, a sweater and another coordinating skirt, not to mention some lovely little accessories! Wool Jersey “blouses” seem to have caught on by the later 1940’s, and skirts started to become fuller, though not quite to the extent that we see in the 50’s. They were still of an a-line shape, but hemlines lengthened and skirts could boast a sweep (hem circumference) of over 72 inches!
Turbans were another option if you didn’t want to wear a hat, and did double duty for keeping your hair out of your face, especially if you were a working woman of the day. Headscarves were also worn in the winter time to keep ladies’ perfectly arranged curls in place while out in the elements.
Slacks were also becoming more prevalently worn, and we will see the first dungarees made for women in this era. Among the teen set, plaid flannel shirts, as well as novelty sweaters were popular. The 1940’s also saw the rise of the turtleneck (no pun intended) sweater, and later, the dolman and kimono style sleeves would be reintroduced.
Shoes were mostly practical pumps, and we also see the ever present oxford in this era. Later on the ballet flat was introduced as well as other similar (more comfortable in my opinion) style shoes such as the low wedge.
So to sum it all up: Up until 1947, the silhouette was practical and sturdy, shoulders being padded, skirts a-line, and hems reaching just below the knee. Wool or wool/rayon blends were the fabrics of the winter months. Suits and separates gained in popularity, and slacks were accepted as women’s wear. Hats, turbans, and headscarves were worn. In the later 1940’s skirts became longer and fulness was increased. Dolman and Kimono sleeves were reintroduced, as well as the turtleneck. Shoes were practical pumps, the ballet flat being introduced in the later 40’s. Sweaters were used to extend the seasonal life of a dress as long as possible.
For this outfit, I of course had to wear the only green, original 1940’s piece in my wardrobe: My Green Sweater from my vintage sweater set! I was inspired by this particular outfit from this pin, so I paired my sweater with a grey pleated skirt, and my coordinating belt. Matching shoes and purse were a must, and so was a warm wool coat. The finishing touch was my little novelty Bottle Brush Pine Tree necklace from A Pocket of Whimsy. Alexis is out of town on Christmas holiday right now, but when she is back, do check out her delightful shop (you can put in your email at her page to be notified when she returns)! Her pieces are so delicate and delightful. I knew as soon as I saw this necklace that it was just the piece to finish my 1940’s ensemble!
For the first time we had a cat photobomb! So please excuse the cat photos. It’s not every day you have a sweet kitty for a photoshoot companion.
Anyways, let’s talk about Jessica’s outfit.
Starting out with her Fair Isle sweater, Jessica added a 1960’s skirt that fit the bill perfectly for a 1940’s copycat. One thing to keep in your head when you’re out searching for vintage looking pieces: If you ever come across, say, a 1970’s suit, sure the jacket may not look 1940’s, but if the skirt does then by all means wear it as such! That’s exactly what Jessica did here with this outfit. To top off her otherwise simple ensemble, Jessica added some delightful milkmaid braids (she’ll be talking about hair and makeup later this week), and the ever present oxfords. Oh, and of course, don’t forget the coat, dear. You’ll be freezing in that ice-cold weather otherwise.
- Pearl Harbor was bombed, December 7th, 1941.
- White Christmas and I’ll Be Home for Christmas were both written in the 1940’s
- Children actually weren’t allowed to see the tree sometimes until Christmas morning! The mother would decorate on Christmas eve while her Children slept, leaving the finished piece to be a surprise for Christmas morning.
- In the U.K., Christmas had to be celebrated underground due to the war.
- Due to the war, Christmas trees were in short supply, so artificial trees had to suffice.
- Electric Bubble Lights were invented in the 1940’s and remain popular to today.
CREDITS // Author: Brigid Boyer; Photography: Charlotte & Brigid Boyer; Photos edited with VSCO Presets