The 1940s Hairstyles
1940: Japan enters
triple alliance with Germany and Italy
1940: Nylon Stockings are introduced
December 7th, 1941: Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor!
1941-1945 United States mobilizes to fight on three fronts: Europe,
Pacific and Home
The Manhattan Project begins to advance atomic capabilities
June 6th, 1944 D-Day invasion
May 7th, 1945 Germany formally surrenders
August 6, 1945: Truman feels necessary to drop the Atomic Bomb at
August 9, 1945: After failing to produce a surrender, Truman drops a
second bomb at Nagasaki
August 10, 1945: Japanese formally sue for peace
1945 Coco Chanel Exiled to Switzerland for her love affair with a Nazi
G. I. Bill of Rights
1946 The Baby Boom begins
Dior creates the "New Look" to revitalize Paris couture 1947
Truman's Fair Deal and subsequent U.S Economic Boom
The advent of World War II imposed several
sanctions in the forties, most noteworthy
the rationing of materials that were needed for the war effort. In
1942, the War Production Board released its L-85 guidelines, which
restricted the amount of cloth that could be used by clothing
Ironically, wedding gowns were exempt from these
sanctions, but consumers were mindful of silk rationing and the War effort,
so rayon was enthusiastically received. The fabric was already in a starring role for gowns
by 1938, where it photographed beautifully on the glamorous stars of the
1930s silver screen. Since Silk was in high demand for parachuting material
and cotton for duffle bags and uniforms, the choice of a rayon gown was
of viscose rayon in the United States had started in 1910 when the fiber
had been sold as "artificial silk." The name
"rayon" was adopted in 1924. A cellulose obtained from
wood pulp, rayon was first used in the clothing field, with grand
success in the lustrous woven satins. The high twist that was required
to make the woven yarn reduced the bright luster of the fibers, while
maintaining the soft and supple hand of the fabric.
Mills, operating under the nickname, "Bur-Mil," was an
industry giant in the production of this type of satin. As early
as 1940, the successful scientific breakthroughs of high tenacity rayon
led to its usage in everything from diapers to automobile tires,
prompting the clothing industry to re-evaluate rayon for everyday
Actress Maureen O' Hara shown here with two
pals, wears her hair in a style known as a
"pompadour." This hairstyle enjoyed a run in
popularity during the Second World War, as it kept hair up and
away from the face, an important safety consideration for women
machinists and riveters. Wartime factory workers also used
snoods (knotted or crocheted nets) to keep their long hair close
to the back of the head.
must be made that the traditional gender barriers that had
formerly limited women in the workplace were quickly lifted.
It was the first time that women were empowered to join the armed forces
and work in the vacated positions left by men who had joined the fight.
Pants and overalls were now considered appropriate and hairstyles were
dictated by safety regulations rather than coquettetish whims. Women
working in factories covered their hair with turbans or wore snoods.
The snood effectively complimented the pompadour
hairstyle of the forties, which lifted the hair into a roll at the
front and sides while the snood held the long hair rolled in the back.
influenced by the powerful military silhouettes, the wedding gown best
remembered in the forties is a luminous rayon satin gown with broad
shoulders and slim waist.
An almost forgotten transition
took place earlier however, from the 1938 sleek and unstructured bias
cut silk gown to the rather diaphanous puffy sleeved organza gown especially popular after the release
of Gone with the Wind in 1939.
the tail end of the 1930s, fabrics
such as voile and taffeta were commonly used and large,
were worn. Bertha collars were also
A 1940 bride who
liked the off the shoulder bertha but still desired the sleek look of a
satin gown took the best of both worlds and incorporated it into one
with illusion net.
the heavy satin gown appear to be floating on the softly draped bertha
Lace and frills were often added to the yoke as trim,
but for the most part wedding gowns in the forties were very minimalist
and smart, with a dropped Basque waist and sweetheart neckline. Closure was with a hidden metal side zipper or button and
loop back, ensuring a flattering fit. Sleeves were long and
tapered with a wedding point over the top of the hand.
Most gowns owed their glory to the unmistakable luxury of supple satin. Companies like Skinner
Satin were noteworthy for their top of the line rayon bridal satin
that looked and felt like the finest silk. Highly prized by wedding gown
collectors today for its drape, substantial weight and suppleness,
Skinner satin gowns were commonly hand beaded with pearls and seed beads
at the yoke. Matching
and silk tulle veils completed the look.
headpieces became brilliantly shaped half crowns with large star
flowers. Other creations featured rhinestones and chenille flowers and
many gowns showcased eight foot long trains. Slender hoops made from
crinoline sometimes had to be worn underneath a gown to help the bride
support the heavy satin. Shoulder pads occasionally reached dramatic
proportions but for the most part were flattering and structured into
the gown's design.
The postwar years of the
1940s brought a great demand for wedding gowns. With
a large surplus of cream-colored silk parachutes at the end of the war,
an enterprising sales venture was to sell the excess chutes along with
an instruction folder to make 6 garments, including a wedding dress.
Most women however, after putting aside small luxuries during the war,
wanted the experience of a bridal consultant to help them with their
American society was
quickly demilitarized and returned to "normalcy," yet in Europe and Great Britain the bombings had
taken their toll. It was uncertain whether the Parisian couture houses,
former giants of the fashion world, would recover within the decade.
the United States, it was business as usual, with fashion designers
working feverishly. Most American women made an appointment with a
Bridal consultant and purchased their wedding gowns in
upscale department store bridal salons. Bullocks of Westwood,
Carson Pirie Scott of Chicago, B. Altman & Co. of New York, The Addis Co.
of Syracuse and Neiman Marcus of Dallas were all full service salons,
with a bridal secretary available to choose everything for the wedding
right down to your trousseau.
Quite a few enterprising
wedding manufacturers emerged as stayers during the post war years, as the demand for gowns far outweighed the supply.
Weisberg-Newman set competitive standards with the success of its Mindelle
line. Priscilla Kidder of Boston opened her doors for business after
working for the department store R. H. White and Edythe Vincent joined
her husband, Alfred Piccione to become a formidable design/sales duo
with the Alfred Angelo company. The post war years of the forties
were really the beginning of the "branding" of the bridal
Slowly but surely there was slight change to the fashionable wedding
silhouette toward the end of the decade as women wanted something fresh
and new. All eyes were on Paris, in the hopes that the War was
"of the past." Though
controversy surrounded his 1947 Corolle
line because of its obvious sexism, most women were eager to blissfully
follow Christian Dior's "New Look" into the next decade.
The 1940s Hairstyles
[ 1920's Veil Styles ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1930's ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1940's ] [ 1940's Vintage Wedding Hairstyles ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1950's ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1960's ] [ Vintage Fashion History - 1970's Weddings ] [ Vintage Fashion History - 1980's Weddings ] [ Desiderata ]