1940’s: Costume, Makeup and Styling

1940s Utility ClothesThe 1940’s were the years where fashion was once again affected by the  wartime. Women’s clothes of the 1940s were typically modeled after the utility clothes produced during war rationing. The military needed to make sure that they had enough fabric to last them until the war was over. Squared shoulders, narrow hips, and skirts that ended just below the knee were the height of fashion. Tailored suits were also quite popular.

Utility clothes typically featured squared shoulders, narrow hips, and skirts that ended just below the knee. Tailored suits were the dominant form of utility fashion.

Most of the women’s fashions during the 1940s were designed with the same squared shoulders, small waist, and skirt above the knee. Do-it-yourself home fashions were encouraged, and women were educated on how to conserve material or update older dresses to the latest fashions. Again, these fashions reflected the style of the utility clothes.

It was not unusual for women to remake different dresses or blouses over and over again using the same recycled fabric. For better or for worse, women learnt how to be creative and save money. Sometimes

Blouses were worn frequently with skirts. Blouses typically had padded shoulders.

By 1947, after WWII was over, fashion  began to replace the wartime utility fashions as fabrics were starting to become more abundant and the restrictions were lifted. The new style post wartime embraced femininity, with rounded shoulders, shapely bust lines, closely-defined waistlines, slightly padded skirts, and full, billowing skirts that hung just below the calves.

The 1940’s also saw the increase in popularity for sweaters. Teenage girls began to sport sweaters, knee-length skirts, and bobby socks during the 1940s. The style held over into the 1950s, but the 1940s skirts were not as full.

As for makeup, as the 1930s came to a close, 1940’s women makeup was a huge industry, with brands such as Coty and Tangee notably becoming major rivals to cosmetic brand leaders like Max Factor, Helena Rubinstein, Maybelline, Elisabeth Arden and Dorothy Gray. Not even another world war was going to halt the advance of glamour.

Makeup had to be ‘on the go’ for women, many of whom found themselves working in very ‘unfeminine’ conditions in munitions and aircraft factories on both sides of the Atlantic. 1940’s Rouges were often in short supply in Britain and Europe, so many women simply used their lipstick to rouge and contour their faces. Nail coloring still followed the half moon look of the previous decades but now just the tip of the nail was left unpainted – generally for practical reasons.


Hilke, J. (2015). Women’s Clothing – 1940s – Clothing – Dating – Landscape Change Program. [online] Uvm.edu. Available at: http://www.uvm.edu/landscape/dating/clothing_and_hair/1940s_clothing_women.php [Accessed 4 Jun. 2015].

The 1940’s • 1940-1949 • Fashion History Movies Music, (2015). Women’s Fashion • The 1940’s • 1940-1949 • Fashion History Movies Music. [online] Available at: http://1940s.org/fashion/women [Accessed 2 Jun. 2015].


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s