1940s fashion

The 1940s were very difficult years for mankind. The horrors of the Second World War shook the whole world. After reading the following article, you will know:

  • What events happened in the 1940s and how they influenced fashion
  • Who were the biggest musical acts in the United States in the 1940s?
  • What popular movies were made in the United States in the 1940s?
  • How fashion trends worked in the 1940s


Perhaps one of the most difficult areas to process emotionally is the 1940s. This was the year of the Second World War, with all its horrors. With the Holocaust and the discovery of the atomic bomb, this war changed human history forever. Wars have been present in human civilization throughout history. In some cases, the struggle for the hinterland has involved men going to the battlefield and fighting each other for resources.

During the Second World War, the hinterland was affected by war in a much more significant way than before. European Jewry was the victim of genocide. Before the Second World War, there were nearly ten million Jews living in Europe. The Third Reich destroyed two-thirds of European Jewry. During the Second World War, they were not killed in an act of war, but were victims of a premeditated, planned and executed genocide.

With the atomic bomb developed during the Great War, and the arsenal of nuclear weapons that it developed, mankind created a system that could be used to end civilisation. The 1940s were therefore a very difficult decade for humanity, a decade of traumatic events. On 10 December 1948, the United Nations, inspired by the horrors of the Second World War, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”


1940s movies

In the 1940s, the film noir genre was at its height. The great actor Humphrey Bogart made his most memorable films during this decade. Alfred Hitchcock, who made many classic films in the 1940s, made his US debut with Rebecca. The best film of the decade is The Best Years of Our Lives.

Most films in the 1940s were black and white. The Technicolor process was very expensive and very challenging. Paramount introduced a new projection system that ushered in a new era.
In 1942, Casablanca was released, which is considered one of the greatest films of all time.


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


Citizen Kane (1941)


Rebecca (1940)


The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Casablanca (1942)


1940s musicians

The best-selling pop singer of the 1940s was Bing Crosby. An iconic, defining artist. He was a superstar of the entertainment industry in the 1940s. The most popular musical style of the 1940s was swing. Frank Sinatra was hugely popular. He is considered the first teen idol. During the 1940s, he was one of the best-selling singers.


Bing Crosby


Frank Sinatra


1940s fashion

In 1940, Paris was already the centre of women’s fashion, but that year it was invaded by the Third Reich, which separated France from the United Kingdom and the United States. The occupation lasted until 1944.
Proportionalism dominated dressing during the war years. Clothes were bought with coupons. The look was simple but stylish.




The 1940s were a very difficult time for mankind, during and after the Great War. The style was replaced by functionality and comfort. With the Third Reich occupying Paris, fashion was dominated by the United States and Hollywood.

Wartime restrictions limited the number of clothes people could buy. They also limited the amount of fabric that clothing manufacturers could use. People worked in the war services. Women working in the war service necessarily wore trousers.

In 1942, the war industry used all the nylon for parachutes, leaving only cotton and rayon stockings.
Britain also introduced a points system, with the Board of Trade issuing a regulation on clothing in 1941. Popular magazines gave advice to women on how to easily transform men’s suits into elegant dresses.
Given that men wore uniforms, suits and other civilian clothes became discarded items.


Hairstyles of the 1940s

Wearing snoods was both practical and fashionable. All hair was put in the net, so the front was left out and could be styled and curled. Wearing headdresses was also popular. For the working woman, a turban was the most functional headdress.



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