Women’s Fashion - 1940s to 1960s
By the beginning of the 1930s, fashion design and haute couture clothing style stepped down a "few notches" to be more compromising, and the times called for a balance between preserving the feminine look and re-discovering simple elegance.
Fashion designers created clothing that became more romantic with "soft" feminine looks. Waistlines returned as the flapper style clothes of the 20's faded out and hemlines became longer.
The bust line re-appears accentuating the woman's silhouette, and the backless evening gowns and slim fitting day dresses once again become appreciated.
These great years in fashion history soon moved into war times, and as fashion soon became a frivolity, utility range of clothing evolved.
Austere Styles of the 40's
At the time, it was trendy to appear in uniforms because uniformed men and women was a common sight and were seen all over the place.
Uniforms were worn to special events and ceremonies and this "fashion" trend continued after the end of the 2nd World War in 1945.
Because the war called for austerity measures, being flippant was frowned upon. Women had to make do with whatever apparel they had and often recycled their once glamorous clothing of the “hey days” to make nice dresses.
Vintage 40s Dresses
The strictness of rationing made women 'make do and mend' because absolutely nothing must go to waste.
Cases abound where people had to use whatever textiles they could lay their hands on to make their clothes, including fabrics such as parachute silk.
They even had to unravel old and worn socks to make cardigans and neck scarves.
Women style of attires changed and their wardrobes include simple and practical clothes like:
- Trousers for practicability and convenience
- Boxy jackets or tops with nipped in waists
- Skirts and simple blouses
- Turbans and head-scarves
No fashionable styles were promoted during these times and apparel manufacturers were encouraged by the government to produce a utility range of clothing.
The clothes produced were also subject to austerity regulations which restricted the yardage of cloth used for any garment's design.
This was evident where pockets were discouraged, men's turn up trousers banned, and limits imposed on shirt lengths.
50s Women Clothing Styles
The 50’s represent different things to different people, but it certainly was a time of growth, capitalism, conservatism, and anti-communism, and a return to fashionably designed clothes and fresh new styles.
Along with changes in the rest of life, fashion was undergoing many of its own changes too. The 50's fashion was greatly influenced by things like music, idols, the movies, etc.., and clothing styles quite often meant taking luxury to the extreme.
It was like a new femininity was discovered and this reflected greatly in couture fashion. Clothes styles became more conventional, and women wore scarlet lipstick and bright red fingernails.
Christian Dior's new look influenced softer shoulders, corseted waists, and fuller long skirts held in place by flared stiff petticoats.
Corsets were an essential in a woman's wardrobe because the ideal body shape for the 50's fashion was the hour-glass (figure eight) shape. Provocative and sexy strapless gowns demanded the use of strapless brassieres and every woman of style had them.
Daytime styles were very feminine, designed to remind every woman that she's a woman and because she had "gone without" during the war years, she deserves this luxury. It was "death to utility clothing", and the years of deprivation.
Apparel designs were often ultra glamorous and stylish, and most young girls were influenced by Marilyn Monroe and guys by James Dean. The high fashion women wore luxuriously feminine low-necked evening dresses, or boned strapless dresses in taffetas, lace, nets, tulle, and chiffon, satin and sometimes nylon.
And people in the art community preferred baggy clothes such as raincoats and over-sized sweaters and pressed or wrinkled suits.
Trendy apparel of the fifties includes:
- Skirts, sweaters, and full circle skirts
- Cocktail dresses with corolla bosoms
- Attires shocking pink colours
- Double apron day dresses
- Hugely bloused tops in the style of an artist's smock
- Very tight skirts
- Blouses with Peter Pan collars.
Balenciaga and Balmain were popular Parisian haute couture designers whose styles were modified for the average woman.
Other fashionable styles include:
- Pinafore dresses and polo neck jumpers
- Crisp white blouses and some sensible but elegant shoes for secretaries
- Leotards with long circular skirts and stoles
- Corduroy smocks and knicker-bucker suits
Vintage Fashion Quiz [with Images] . . . So, how much of a pro are you? How much do you know of vintage fashion and its history? How much do you know about some of the people behind those great trends?
In the 60's, fashion houses encountered a subtle revolt from the youths - hippies and mods. They felt Parisian couture need not have the "exclusive rights" to fashion and style.
There evolved an internationalization of the fashion scene, and the rich and trendy soon shopped as happily in London or Paris as they did in New York or Rome.
The French no longer enjoyed the exclusive rights to haute couture fashion in the 60's, and though still reckoned with even today, the youth of the 1960's fashion scene demanded a deviation from their high-end styles.
Fashion was initially carried over from the 50's, but they only seemed to look great on older and mature women, and that meant drab to the young and upcoming "fashionistas".
And then, little shops called boutiques promoting fashion design clothes started to spring up, and suddenly, haute couture took on a different perspective.
Designers introduced bold and loud colours into their creations; the skirts became shorter, thus culminating in the mini clothes and the quintessential girlie look of the 60's.
Designer clothes of a decade earlier that were slim-line and tubular gave way to flared skirts and tentative beginnings of the A-line skirts.
Soon after, skirts and dresses came in varying lengths -midi and maxi, and these cuts would remain popular for about fifteen years, until the late 70's.
Stockings were outdated because skirts and dresses became shorter, and tights became an essential clothing accessory creating a neat, uncluttered and long legged look.
By the end of the sixties, fashion started to change as hems began to drop again and bright bold coloured fabrics with psychedelic patterns were used for both men and women’s wear, an influence heightened by the hippie movement.
Famous fashion designers and boutiques of the sixties include:
- Mary Quant
- Miss Mouse
At the time, celebrities like Twiggy played major roles in promoting the new, more relaxed, and more colourful way of dressing that reverberated around the fashion world.
In April 1966, Time Magazine famously labeled London as the world centre of fashion design and style. Being fashionable became related to the rapidly changing social, economic and aesthetic context of the times, and the central role it played out, not just on Carnaby Street which holds a vast history of fashion design, but the sixties pop culture as well.
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