Doris Day, 1948
Doris Day 1948


Barbara Stanwyck, 1940
Barbara Stanwyck, 1940





Ginger Rogers, 1942

Brenda Marshall, 1940s
Brenda Marshall 1940s


Joan Crawford, 1946
Joan Crawford 1946



Fashion during the 1940s fell to the background as the majority of the decade was overshadowed by WWII. Though most of society was preoccupied with the impending war and instability of world power, some trends were seen even in this dark era.

“Because of the war, European fashion was no longer available in the United States. Therefore, American designers, who were often overlooked, became more popular. Another result of the inaccessibility of European designers was that American designers were able to make improvements to sizing standards and began to use fiber content and care labels in clothing.”

Since fabrics and money were limited, most of trends from the 1940s wartime era represented the practicality and utilitarian way of life. Many magazine and newspaper articles encouraged women to utilize items and clothing that they already owned. Sewing, stitching and knitting, were popular ways to create new clothes from fabrics and items around the house; and, darning was a popular way to mend socks with holes.

Joan Crawford



Men’s fashion during the 1940s was also reflective of the ominous tones of the wartime era. For special occasions, “men wore suits made of rationed materials, or V-neck sweater vests or knitted waistcoats over a shirt and tie. An iconic men’s suit to emerge in the 1940s was the illicit zoot suit. This suit was usually worn at nightclubs and consisted of an oversized jacket, wide lapels, broad shoulders, low crotches, and the pants narrowed toward the ankles.” The darkness looming over the wartime 1940s fashion persists until the end of the war. Then, once the war ended, new fashion trends emerged, such as Christian Dior’s “New Look,” which became popular in America during the 1950s.


Students on campus at Howard University. Location: Washington, DC, US Date taken: 1946 Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt"
Students on campus at Howard University. Location: Washington, DC, US Date taken: 1946 Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt”
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