How Was the Fashion World in 1940?

Md Mahedi Hasan

Last Updated:


Over the years, the human race has seen various upgrades in different aspects. All the industrial upgrades have helped us to make various improvements in the different sectors of life. The fashion industry is one to utilize this opportunity. 

From the 1940s to 2023, there have been a lot of fashion changes for both genders. You might think that the clothes women used to wear back in the time would not be fashionable but that would be wrong. 

Those fashion choices were iconic for the time and they still are. The Fashion World in 1940 was one of the most famous eras for vintage wear. Women’s fashion consisted of practicality and style which was ensured to achieve a lasting elegance. 

In this article, we will talk about 1940s women’s fashion and how they used to make it work. 

Behind the Fashion World in 1940. 

The beginning of World War 2 was in 1939 so there are some changes within the fashion timeline. Throughout the duration of the war, women’s dresses were knee-length and consisted of padded shoulders. There were rarely any adornments in clothing and most were very simple all because of wartime rationing. Women started wearing more sportswear as it was easier to carry. 

the Fashion World in 1940
An Image of the Fashion World in 1940

Since fashion was low on the priority list, women used to mix separates to make a wardrobe seem more diverse. Recycled fabrics from old pieces were used to make hats and those were very trendy. Most clothes were very simple to ensure practicality and women managed to look attractive even during the toughest days of war. 

Showing off silhouettes was frowned upon so often women used to incline towards suits or factory overalls. To ensure their feminine look, bright red lips or curls were paired along with their clothes. Jackets became shorter and the peplum gained a lot of attention. It is used to help narrow the hips while also showing off a trim waist. 

Which Fashion Item Was the Most Famous in 1940 For Women? 

Women were all about the suits back in the 1940s. For 40s fashion, suits were the primary focus and there were several designs to choose from. Usually, the shoulders were exaggerated and overstated because as the decade went on, fabric rations during the war were very less so low voluminous outfits were manufactured. For that reason, jackets were also short. However, as soon as the war was over, jackets became full lengths and so did the suits. 

Here we will talk about some clothing styles that were introduced to the fashion industry in the 1940s and have been in style ever since. 


Dresses in the 1940s were shorter than usual due to the shortage of fabric because of the war. During the 1930s, mid-calf length dresses were very normal. But in the 40s, the hemline for dresses came up to just below the knee. Along with a shorter hemline, shoulder pads were added to give women a masculine appearance.

Dresses in 1940

Even though the dresses had a variety of necklines, none of them allowed to show any cleavage. Most dresses were of a solid colour and very few had some simple patterns. Once the war was over there was no more fabric shortage, patterned fabrics were more common and skirts also got fuller. 

Wide Leg Pants. 

Due to the war, women started working in factories in the 40s. Before the 40s, it was uncommon for women to wear wide-leg pants but skirts and dresses could be hazardous in factories since they could latch onto stuff, so women started wearing pants. At first, women only wore men’s pants but then pants were specifically made for women.

Wide Leg Pants. 
Image of Wide Leg Pants

As this became the norm, women started wearing pants outside of factories as well. Pants in the 40s had wide legs and high waistlines and that helped women to achieve the hourglass figure.

Workwear and Housecoats. 

Pants were not the only clothing item that became popular among women because of working in factories. Women also started choosing coveralls or overalls in the 40s as they were more convenient to move around.

Workwear and Housecoats Style in 1940
Workwear and Housecoats Style in 1940

Usually, the fabric of choice for overalls or coveralls would be heavy denim as they are durable and easy to care for. But several other fabric choices were also considered and most of them were heavy because no one wanted to purchase the same item several times. Along with overalls, women would usually wear a blouse or button-down work shirt underneath. During the summertime, women also wore housecoats as they were mostly made using cotton which helped them to feel light and at ease. 


The 1940s was the first decade the first two-piece swimsuits were introduced, but they were not the itty-bitty bikinis we see today. The swimsuits had skirts which would go up to the top of the thigh. As for the two pieces, the tops did not reveal a lot of chest area while the bottoms would be high-waisted.

Beachwear in 1940
Beachwear in 1940

During the early 40s, two-piece swimsuits only had a little gap like four inches between the top and bottom parts. Even though the first true bikini appeared in the mid-forties, most women were too shy to wear them in public. Some women also used to wear beachwear which is a lightweight dress over their swimsuit for modesty. 


Women’s hats were very popular in the 1940s because they helped them to accessorize since their clothes were usually very simple. Berets or turbans were the most popular looks for women during this decade.

Hats of 1940
Hats Image of 1940

Turbans were usually decorated with jewels or flowers. Hats had ribbons or flowers on them and some women also wanted to keep their hats simple. Another style of hat consisted of an attached veil which was used to cover part of the face. Since women were working in factories, snoods became more popular. Other than these, most hats mimicked men’s styles


The forties are known for its notorious hourglass figure and girdles were available for women to achieve that. Girdles used to fit like granny panties, the front was flat which smoothed any bumps or lumps and they were very tight. Bras in 1940 had thick elastic straps and full-backs. They were made for function and lacked appeal.

Image of Lingerie
Image of Lingerie

As skirts were shorts, stockings became more important. However, they would only come up to the thigh and require a garter belt to hold them. Due to the war nylong and silk were very scarce so stockings would also be very rare. Women would often paint stockings on to replace the absence of the real one. Seamless stockings started appearing by the late forties. 

Final Words:

1940s women’s fashion sense was applicable for that decade as a lot was already going on with the world. even though women made use of whatever was at hand, those fashion etiquettes are still relevant in today’s time. Surely, there are some changes but the 40s fashion is still fashionable in today’s world. 

Now, it can be surely said that the fashion industry has changed a lot over the decade. However, if you look carefully, you can see that some fashion choices are making their way back to people. So, you might question yourself if there have been some changes really. 

Leave a Comment