War broke out in Europe in 1939, the same year the first true artificial fiber, Nylon, was introduced at the World's Fair in New York. For the duration (1939-1945), fashion veered between exiting innovations and the shortages, price controls and rationing created by war.
Women's clothing went through the greatest changes in this era, both due to shortages, and due to large numbers of women engaging in work outside the home during the war. Bias cutting was promptly dropped as a waste of fabric, and "Make Do And Mend", wartime advice centered on sewing old clothes in to new ones.
Men's suits were re-cut into women's suits, complete with the tailored details and shoulder padding previously found in the garments. Shoulder pads quickly became stylish in all women's garments, not only suits, and stayed in fashion until 1949.
Most governments issued either construction guidelines, or rationing to curtail fabric use, yet even in Europe men and women managed ways to stay fashionable during the conflict. "The Little Black Dress" was a popular method suggested by style magazines: Having a simple, short (knee length) black dress, which one varied each day and evening with sets of color-matched accessories.
Fashion that was not rationed, like hats, and hairstyles, grew creatively elaborate. Women and girls were actively encouraged to wear pants, both for war work and warmth.
Aloha Shirts for casual wear came to the mainland with servicemen returning from the Pacific theatre. Suit wearing increasingly was confined to work in offices, going to church, and formal occasions.
Could you only imagine the bartering between neighbors and strangers to get the items you needed? I am sure it was literally staring at the most dull boring fabrics and trying to make it FABULOUS! What a challenge for all the artists of this time!
Photos courtesy of: 1. vivenofhalloway.blogspot.com 2. vintageculture.com 3. uffnervintage.com 5. dev.alleykatsstore.com 6. picsdigger.com 7. fortiesfashions.blogspot.com 8. seattletwist.com 9. timesofglory.blogspot.com 10. capitolcharlotte.com