Key Fashion Trends from the 1940s
During the 1940s fashion was heavily influenced by the Second World War. This led to some interesting fashion developments. In the first half of the decade, fashion was influenced by war time shortages. By the end of the decade it was influenced by a backlash to these restrictions. This article looks at four iconic trends to emerge during the 1940s.
1. Christian Dior’s New Look
One of the most iconic fashion developments of the 1940s was what is commonly referred to as Dior’s New Look. In 1947, Christian Dior introduced a silhouette that was characterized by a very full skirt and a narrow waist. Some of his dresses used as much as 25 yards of fabric with the majority of it in the skirt area. In the early 1940s fabric was rationed, Dior’s very full skirts celebrated the fact that there were no longer restrictions on fabric use. At first some people thought they were too decadent, but by the 1950s full skirts were all the rage.
2. The emergence of the bikini
Due to war restrictions the American government determined that the amount of fabric used on ladies swimsuits should be reduced during the early 1940s. This led to the removal of the middle section of the swimsuit.
The term bikini was coined by French Designer Louis Reard a few years later. He introduced an even tinier swimsuit design and called it the bikini. He named his creation the bikini, because at the time he designed it they were carrying out nuclear testing on bikini atoll.
3. The Hollywood glamour look
The film industry, in Hollywood, really took off during the 1940s. This had a major influence on fashion, because women wanted to look like the actresses who starred in the films. Starlets, like Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe, were typically portrayed looking very glamorous. They wore their hair in smooth and controlled curled hairstyles, and often donned red lips. They wore bias cut silk satin gowns and often accentuated their look with diamonds. In fact the song Diamonds are a girl’s best friend first was first showcased on Broadway in 1949.
4. Pretty undergarments
Lingerie also took on a glamorous appearance during the 1940s. Designer Simone Perle thought undergarments should look pretty, so she released a collection of decorated styles. This was well received and other designers began embracing the idea. Silk was the fabric of choice for those who could afford it. The designs were not as scanty as they are today, French knickers, camisoles and slips were some of the most popular styles.
The bikini book, editor Mike Evans, 1996, Hamlyn, London.
Australian Stitches Sewing secrets no. 2, 1999, Carol Brett, Express publications.
Simone Perle , Marie Claire Australia, February 2009 pg. 140.