Research Notes: 40s Fashion

1940s.62134810_largeIs there anything classier than 1940s fashion? Not in my opinion. The hats, the gloves, the wavy hair…This style became iconic of the war years on the homefront.

The Roaring 20s were all about the flapper dresses and the 30s saw an emergence of new materials (rayon) and styles. But with the outbreak of the war in 39, the trends moved toward simplicity, practicality and economy.

Women took on a new role after 1941 when the men of America’s workforce shipped overseas to fight the Axis powers. The iconic “Rosie the Riveter” spurred the image of the working woman.

(Side note: Unlike America, Germany’s culture did not approve of women working outside the home, which hampered manufacturing in Germany to where they couldn’t produce enough weapons, tanks, planes and ships to meet the need. Germany brought in millions of slave laborers from the nations they had conquered. But by then, it was really too late to catch up to the surging American War Machine.)

Cosmetics and appearance took a turn in the 30s and 40s as women imitated their favorite Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Gretta Garbo and Mae West. Women were bleaching their hair at home with peroxide to get the Jean Harlow look.

Researching details like the clothing and styles of the time period are as important as knowing the difference between “Defense Bonds” and “War Bonds.” (Trick question: War Bonds were called Defense Bonds prior to America joining the war.) Novels create an atmosphere for the reader, and as historical fiction, must be true to the period.

There is always so much to learn and absorb, whether it is through library books, documentaries or web searches. Research, research, research…then write, write, write.

Research Tip:
If you like the movies of the 30s and 40s, here’s a fun Web site of “Movie Maidens.” The true gold mine of information, as always, is your local library. Have fun exploring the past!

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Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks