Fashion trends of the 30’s were continuing to evolve as the 1940’s began. That all changed, however, when America entered World War II. As men left for war, women entered the workforce as never before, doing the jobs that men used to do in order to support the war effort. Fashion changed due to the needs of the war effort. Rationing of materials, particularly silk and nylon, affected the look of women’s clothing. Dominant new traits included squared shoulders; hip-fitting skirts ending just below the knee; pants; and tailored suits.
Because of the war, fashion communications with Europe ended. American designers stepped forward and started making styles for women that were all their own. One of the major trends in fashion during this time was the use of printed rayon because it gave women a built-in accessory during war rationing. Red became one of the most popular colors because it was cheap. Pants designed specifically for women replaced the men’s pants they had been wearing to factories across the country. These new pants were wide-legged and high-waisted.
Men’s styles were incorporated to include slim-fitted jackets, necktie blouses, collared coats and sweaters worn over the basic blouse. Accessories included gold-toned costume jewelry, including the popular “tank track” necklaces and bracelets. Gloves were a daily staple as were reptile leather shoes, due to the cheap cost of that leather. Fedoras and loose curled hairstyles were also popular.
Post-war, women were ready to have more fun with their wardrobe. Paris houses of fashion opened up again in 1947, making it once again the place for high fashion. On February 12, 1947, Christian Dior presented his new collection at the House of Dior. These bold, new styles changed everything. It became known as the “New Look”. Skirts were full and mid-calf length. Shoulders were rounded rather than squared. Though this was already beginning to be seen in America, his designs led the charge to its full acceptance in the 1950’s.