The inventions of women’s fashion of the 1940sOn September 29, 2021 by Emma Collymore
Women’s fashion of the 1940s was sometimes a time of great restrictions on design, fabrics and finishes. The war forced clothing designs to be simple, but it also forced manufacturers to be creative with what they could use and invent new materials. The 1940s brought new inventions of women’s fashion, many of which still exist today.
- Belt. Until the 1940s, the female uniform was made of metal bones. In the 1940s, the belt was invented as a form of underwear pulled up to the abdomen. It formed just the middle to the hips and created a sleek hourglass silhouette associated with vintage fashion. The belt was uncomfortable and was eventually replaced with nylon or no molding at all. Today, the belt is back with body shapers, controlling stockings, underwear and other clothing for sucking and smoothness. Maybe their name has changed, but these clothes are just updated.
- Wedge shoes. Leather and wood were needed for the war, so the shoe design had to be creative. The solution was a traffic jam. The cork sole was used for shoes and then wrapped in a beautiful fabric, net or even reptile skin. It was economical and allowed for a higher heel than what was considered a safe heel pump. Today, wedges come and go, especially in summer, when the beach gets wedge sandals.
- District. In case you didn’t know, Rayon is a synthetic fabric. It was invented and became very popular in the 1940s. Until now, clothes were made of wool, silk and cotton. The war required silk and cotton, so the area was used instead. It can be light as silk, or heavy as wool. Today, viscose is still used in fine fabrics, especially in summer.
- Nylons. Until the 1940s, women’s stockings were made of silk. They were very fragile and required frequent correction and hand washing. Dupont then invented nylon, and thus “Nylon” became a stocking brand. Today, nylon is still used to make all kinds of hosiery and fabrics.
- Lightning. Thanks to new inventions of the 1940s, women can fasten clothes instead of buttons, fasteners or lacing.
- Plastic. Although various forms of plastic have existed since the 1920s, it was only in the 1940s that they really took center stage in the fashion world. Jewelry was made of bakelite plastic in large colorful images. Bags, makeup cases and household items were made from Lucite. You may not know these plastic names, but I’m sure you know that plastic is everywhere in vogue- from cute hairpins to zippers to purse handles.
- Shoulders. You might think that the 1980s were the first decade of using a shoulder bag. They actually go much further than the 1940s, but as a regular fashion accessory for women the 1940s were the first. They used backpacks in dresses, jackets and blouses to cut off the shoulder to create a chic military atmosphere. The fashions of the 1940s strongly influenced the 1980s, so the backpacks returned to style.