Last week my 6th book was published - Fashion in the 1940s (Shire Library, October 2014).
The Second World War and its aftermath dominated dress during the 1940s, so the book focuses closely on Home Front fashion throughout the conflict and in the following years, as evidenced in family photographs, official government images, magazine advertisements, dressmaking patterns and surviving articles of dress.
The first chapter, Dressed for War, examines sartorial developments such as the siren suit and gas masks and the uniforms worn by women who joined wartime organisations and considers the ways in which everyday clothing was modified to suit wartime conditions and new work roles.
Restricted Fashion focuses on clothes rationing in Britain and what this meant for families from all social backgrounds; also the Utility scheme that from 1942 controlled much of the nation’s garment manufacture and the austerity measures that limited the amount of cloth and decoration that could be used for dresses, skirts, trousers, suits and coats.
The third chapter, Keeping Up Appearances, deals with the challenges of preserving a decent wardrobe and maintaining a respectable appearance at a time of growing shortages and restrictions. It includes details of the Government’s Make-Do and Mend scheme and demonstrates how women extended the life of their own and their family’s clothes and had to improvise when it came to hair and beauty products and cosmetics.
The fourth chapter covers Bridal Wear during and after the war. It looks at 1940s bridal choices, including both romantic white wedding fashions and the smart civilian styles that were popular when weddings were arranged at short notice and there was no time to acquire a special white dress and veil.
Finally Post-War Style examines the development of fashion after the war. Christian Dior’s controversial ‘New Look’, launched in 1947, revived a sense of feminine glamour and, despite early criticism of its extravagant styling when Britain was still in the grip of rationing and austerity, versions of the new silhouette were widely adopted by the end of the decade.
Late-1940s bathing costume courtesy www.1860-1960.com
Another major strand of late-1940s fashion was the development of colourful beachwear and a general trend towards youthful, comfortable separates, inspired by casual American fashions.
This is just a glimpse inside my new book. For the full story and dozens of beautiful contemporary illustrations, see Fashion in the 1940s: http://www.shirebooks.co.uk/store/Fashion-in-the-1940s_9780747813538