Resources / Centuries and Decades / 1940s


The fashion of the forties was under the influence of war, but has not disappeared absolutely as it might have been expected. Fashion magazines have not stopped the activity. They strongly recommended to women to look after themselves as well-groomed appearance helped to increase fighting spirit. This problem was not an easy one. In Europe and in the United States strict restrictions on use of materials and styles were imposed with the beginning of war, thus allowing to redirect the light industry and resources on for the needs of the military.

The most severe regulations were in respect to footwear: leather was exclusively used for the manufacture of military boots, and the only materials left for civilian use were felt, a hemp fibre, wood, rubber, synthetics and leather waste products. Regulations also has encompassed the styles, having limited the height of a heel: for example, in the United states it was allowed to wear heels no more than 2,5 cm high, while in the Great Britain - up to 5 cm. It was recommended to buy convenient footwear on a flat sole or wedges.

In the new conditions the fashion magazines advocated a new code of elegance, which set as an example "utilitarian" style. Women were recommended to buy practical quality goods, which would last more than one season. “Make yourself’ practice was widely spread": recommendations taught how altered old things into new ones, so they could be used longer.

Shoes became heavier in appearance and have lost the elegance and the levity of the 30s. The platform and the cork wedge covered with fabric or leather were manufactured even before the war, but they were made without any covering, leaving the cork open to save up materials. "Vogue" recommended women "to revive" their footwear with the help of colour fringe or bright ribbons, which did not get under the strict restrictions of the regulations.

The problem of absence of stockings was solved with the help of cosmetic means. For example, a back seam was drawn the legs drew with brow liner pencil – the procedure itself demanding considerable skill. Some beauty salons specialized on putting special shade on working women’ legs in the mornings to recreated the look of the stockings. Those who could not afford it shaded the legs with the help of chicory and tea leaves or had to wear socks.

The end of war did not lead to immediate lifting of the restrictions, many of which were still valid for a long time. "Fashion" revolution at the end of the decade was made be Christian Dior, who presented his collection in 1947. A silhouette offered by Dior, - small sloping shoulders, the tightened waist, highly lifted gorgeous bust and wide skirts up to ankles cultivated an image of a magnificent temptress. Authorities have been shocked with such a challenge when thrift and modesty still continued to remain among the public virtues. However women in Europe and America have accepted the style instantly. Named "New Look", the collection answered to deep desire of the society to somewhat quicker forget the burdens of war and to return to normal life where there were entertainments, fashion and feminity.

Massive platforms and wedges became inappropriate with the "New Look" style and have been replaced with narrow pumps and sandals. The Italian and French footwear designers aspired to narrow the heel to the utmost to render elegance and fragility to a new feminine silhouette.