Many popular 1940s fashion trends are a staple part of the Ruchette look! Just as many styles of the 1930s developed out of economic troubles, many of the timeless trends of this era were a reaction to warfare and hardship. Popular materials like nylon and silk had to be rationed and were used in World War II efforts, so clothing became simpler and new materials were used in designs. The color red began popping up in fashion during this time, as the sensible dyes typically used for clothing were needed for military clothing. Before the 1940s, America looked to Europe for the newest fashions, but the war blocked America from such outside influence and trade. Because of this, American designers took the stage and, for the first time, America had a style very independent of the trends seen in Paris. With the men at war and clothing rationed, females started adapting unused menswear from their husbands’ closets, which is how the women’s blazer came to be -- a wardrobe essential for every Ruchette today!
Unlike the 1930s dresses that incorporated pleats and voluminous sleeves, 1940s dresses were sleek and slim and rose to just below the knee. Since material had to be rationed during war time, it made sense to leave the embellishments aside and stick to simple, well-constructed frocks. Printed rayon was popular in the design of 1940s dresses because having a basic print gave a dress a built-in accessory that didn’t require extra material. At Ruche, we love the versatility of simple and patterned dresses, as they can be worn both day and night with a quick switch of accessories.
The simple flared dresses of the time were also compatible with the era’s popular swing dancing fad. Like the 1920s flapper dresses, the slim 1940s dresses allowed for movement and comfort on the dance floor. Jumper dresses, a sleeveless and collarless dress intended to be worn over blouses, also gained popularity too, as they were an easy, comfortable option and could be paired with a variety of blouses. Have you seen any of these styles hanging in your closet? We bet they’re there!
Inspired by the ongoing war, slim-fitting jackets became a trend for women. Everyday menswear was incorporated into the female style – women would raid their husbands’ wardrobes to find new items since they couldn’t go out and splurge. They made it work! A woman could wear menswear inspired necktie blouses and collared coats or take a man’s jacket and belt it for an easy touch of femininity!
Sweaters also remained popular during this time and were easy to throw on over a basic blouse, which were the standard for 1940s tops. Simple-cut blouses were an affordable option for penny pinchers, and they could even be adapted from menswear for those with the tightest of budgets. At Ruche, we love how simple blouses are perfect for layering and can be paired with skirts, wide leg pants or even worn over dresses for an endless combination of looks!
Knee length skirts were all the rage during the 1940s, partly because they required less material to make than the longer skirts of the past. Like dresses of this era, 1940s skirts were sleek and free of the pleats seen in 1930s skirts. Pair knee length skirts with a simple blouse and blazer for an easy, standard look inspired by this era.
Trousers and wide leg pants also increased in popularity during the 1940s. With the introduction of Rosie the Riveter and an increasing campaign for feminism while the men were at war, blue jeans came into vogue. While they were acceptable in certain work environments in the previous era, they became a full-blown fad during the 1940s. We’re thankful for this trend, as Ruchettes today love to dress jeans up or pair them with comfortable basics for a casual look.
As with 1940s clothing, 1940s shoes were also often crafted in experimental materials in lieu of traditional resources. These experimental materials are now often used today and are commonly seen as stylish options. Two such materials were mesh and various reptile skins -- if you own any faux reptile peep-toes, you now know how they were inspired! The wedge, platform and peep toe were the most popular designs of the era and are still some of the trendiest shoe designs used today.
Nylons became an increasingly important part of women’s fashion at the end of the 1930s, but during the war, the government began reserving nylon for parachute construction. Bare legs became acceptable, as women didn’t want to wear scratchy hosiery made of other materials, but advertisers tried to convince the public that a substitute was necessary. When nylon became available again, everyone rushed to stock up on them – an event referred to as the “nylon wars.” We love wearing sheer and opaque tights today, and are so glad we don’t have to fight for them!
Reptile and other materials used for shoes were also used for bags and other 1940s accessories. No matter the accessory, designers were coming up with inventive ways to give women the items they wanted even if the usual materials were unavailable.
Hats continued to remain popular during this era, and thanks to the stunning Marlene Dietrich (an actress and singer), the fedora hat for women came into style during this time. Women often wore muffs in the winter and often matched them to their hats, continuing the 1930s trend of matching accessories.
To get a finished look, give your hair and makeup extra oomph – women in the 1940s had to accessorize in this way to make up for less extravagant clothing! Twist up the front of your hair and set your locks in loose curls. Or if you’re feeling daring, try a hair snood – many women used to wear these fashionable hairnets set with a headband to keep their hair up while working. Finish with bold, red lipstick and lots of mascara to complete the 1940s transformation.
Like the women of the 1940s, Ruchettes aim to keep their style creative and can make do in times of thriftiness. Visit Ruche to get the vintage inspired clothing and accessories you need at an affordable price!