In 1943 the United Sates was in the midst of World War II. When a country is at war it is reflected in the clothing that is worn. Skirts became shorter (to save on material) and silk hose became a rare commodity, because the silk was needed for parachutes. Some women opted to draw a black line straight up the middle of the backs of their legs to simulate hosiery. Wool was hard to come by because it was needed for the soldiers’ uniforms.
The Impact of the War on Fashion
Clothing tends to become austere during wartime in reflection of the state of the country.. People had to make do with what they had and to mend it if it were torn or frayed. It was considered poor form to wear fancy clothing during war time.
Women’s jackets became boxy with wide shoulders and shoulder pads, which emulated the military look. One style of clothing that was favored in 1943 and throughout the war was called "utility design", which were mass produced, short-skirted, square shouldered outfits Turn back cuffs were eliminated and there were only three buttons per jacket. The length of most skirts was approximately 19 inches from the ground.
A 1943 dress commonly featured short sleeves or three-quarter length sleeves. The dresses were worn both during the day and at night, when the woman went out to dance or to attend an engagement. It was knee length or a little longer and sported a belt, collarless neckline and front pockets.
Many women worked in munitions factories during the war. They covered their heads with kerchiefs and wore sturdy, wedge shoes and a military style suit while at work. It was during this era that women started wearing pants, which were more practical for work than a dress or skirt. The pants were high-waisted and wide-legged.
Food, clothing and footwear were rationed during wartime. There was a shortage of leather during the war, so cork was used to create soles for shoes. These shoes were durable and comfortable.
In the face of a lack of resources, wartime populations are forced to be creative with materials. Pillowcases were used to make white summer shorts, and wedding dresses were shared by sisters and cousins and friends. Skirts could be created out of men’s trousers. When they could get access to it, women used parachute silk and parachute nylon as well as industrial black out cloth to make dresses. The lace on pillowcases was removed and attached to blouses.
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Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.
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