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A timeline history of Shoes and Fashion

The 1940's:

When I get my civvy clothes on, No more soldiering for me

WHAT’S GOING ON? 
War.  When I think of the forties I think of war.  And Ingrid Bergman.  But mostly I think of war.  World War II began December 8, 1941 and continued until 1945 and was the focal point of the era.  It affected everything.  Lifestyles, employment, fashion, shoes.  Everyone pulled together to help in the war effort.  Boys lied about their age to help out.  Women of all ages found themselves in munitions factories and other male dominated jobs maintaining aircraft batteries, driving trains and operating cranes.   Times, they were a changing. 
kissing on valentine's day



<Left: Kissing on Valentine's Day - Times Square. May 8, 1945

 



Oh, but when you wanted to dream and forget about the war, there were movies, movies, movies galore!  Glamorous Hollywood stars, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. And big Bands with Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. 

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WOMEN’S FASHIONS
Prior to the onset of WWII, New York fashion designers went to Paris each year to view the latest fashions and then copied them upon their return.  But once those Germans occupied Paris, this was no longer an option for New York designers were cut off from Paris haute couture. American designers had to make due themselves. Joan Fontaine

 

Movie actress, Joan Fontaine>






Manufacturing focused primarily on war goods and restrictions were imposed on fabrics and other materials putting a dent in the old creativity when it came to new fashions. American designers had to crank up that creativity and cut corners all at the same time.  Enter the new lady's suit: short straight skirts topped by short jackets creating that typical austere silhouette that comes to mind that is synonymous of the 4o’s. Shorter clothes, less fabric. Cutting corners wasn't that bad!

People also started to dress down for it appeared a bit gauche to be all gussied up duing a time of shortage. And in direct reflection to this attitude there came the concept of the coordinating separates, the perfect solution to creating the illusion of more outfits than one actually had. Gored, gathered and A-lines skirts were topped with soft, feminine blouses. Collars were cut full in the peter pan style or the traditional pointed collar design accentuated with lace. All mix and match. Now that's some creative thinking!
new look




Right: Christian Dior's New Look>







In 1947, Dior introduced the “New Look”, featuring longer and fuller skirts and a return to the classic femininity of a nipped waist. Ugh. Not the nipped waist AGAIN.

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WOMEN’S SHOES
When leather became restricted to military use, every imaginable material was incorporated for shoes with reptile skins and mesh as the most successful substitutes. Women wore cork or wood-soled “Wedgies” and all adornment kept to a minimum.

1940 shoe




<1940's Reptile Skinned Pump







US rationing also regulated heel heights which were limited to one inch along with only six color choices. And stockings? Don't even think about it.

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MEN’S FASHIONS
Due to the previously mentioned war rationings men’s suits were made without vests or pocket flaps and their pants lost their pleats and cuffs to save on fabric. 
zoot suit




Right: Detail. Custom Tailored Clothes. Zoot Suit>







The only exception to the strict rationing was the zoot suit, originally worn in the early thirties in Harlem nightclubs. The zoot suit consisted of a highly exaggerated oversized jacket, wide lapels and shoulders with baggy trousers. This fad stuck around until the 1940s and directly influenced regular men’s fashions in many ways; coats were roomier and trousers higher waisted.  By the end of the war, men’s styles became full cut and long with more and more colors available.  Hand painted ties were popular featuring skyscrapers, exotic foliage, limousines, rodeos, Tahitian sunsets and even pin-up girls. Hey!

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MEN’S SHOES

Oxfords, Brogues and moccasins were the most popular styles throughout the forties. During this period, college students took to wearing sports clothes and nothing says sports like the spectator and saddle shoes.
men's shoes




<Left: Detail. Photo Postcard Reproduction: Man Seated, circa 1940





For more images of 1940's shoes, please visit my Styles Gallery


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~KBCreations. Copyright 2006

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