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The Softer Side - 40s Part I

By Nancy Willett [ February 2003 ]

Wartime saw many restrictions in fashions and clothing in general. The United States stipulated the amount and types of fabric that also affected European nations. With nylon, wool, and silk in short supply, women were forced to turn to fabrics such as rayon crepe, black faille and velvet chiffon for evening clothes. Rayon gabardine was the replacement for wool.

As a direct result of wartime restrictions standardized button and pocket limitations were introduced. Women's clothing became much more masculine as boxy suit jackets with large shoulder pads, fitted waists, and dresses sported a peplum with narrow skirts. Later on the A line skirt was shown with suits.

Hollywood still greatly influenced the American fashion world and the forty films were filled with the fashions of the time; Suites, sweaters, skirts, pants, bathing suits, shoulder pads and sweater sets were made famous by Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner.

In the evening beaded sweaters and jackets were the choice as sequins were un-rationed and were widely used along with rhinestone buttons. Costume jewelry was large, consisting mostly of pins and brooches made in sterling silver.

Expensive gloves were replaced with knitted or crocheted ones. Stockings were thick rayon. Pocket books were tremendous in size, elongated, and with the metal shortage, made with wood or plastic closures.

Broadcloth or calfskins were used with many women crocheting their own with gimp or cording. Crocheted bags were manufactured in great numbers along with envelope bags, panier handle bags, pearlized plastic bags and hatbox bags, all designs of the forties.

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