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1940s Collection

World War II had a major impact on fashion. The Nazi occupation of countries throughout Europe brought their fashion industry to a halt. American designers seized the opportunity to build clientele and their styles gained an international following.

When the United States entered the war, the government began rationing goods and materials, including those used for garments. This rationing limited public use of materials needed for the war effort, such as nylon, wool, cotton, leather, and rubber. Styles of the 1940s reflected conservative use of fabrics, vibrant dyes, and other materials.

Rosie the Riveter exemplified the Homefront Woman, who contributed to the War Effort while men were fighting overseas. Designers adapted elements of typically masculine styles like military uniforms, broad shoulders, slacks and knee-length skirts, to clothing that was both fashionable and practical.

When the War ended, so did rationing. Designers quickly began creating garments using large amounts of fabric and producing very feminine silhouettes. Nothing exemplified this more than Christian Diors New Look of 1947, which featured a small waist, full bust, padded hips and very full skirts made of yards and yards of fabric.

Jean Clark's 1941 Inaugural Gown: Front

Jean Clark's 1941 Inaugural Gown

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Front view of a navy wool skirt and jacket over a sheer, synthetic button-down blouse from the 1940s

Women's Suit

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Front view of a WAVE uniform from the 1940s

Women's Military Uniform Ensemble

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Army Uniform: 1 Front

Army Uniform

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Slag Hammer: Image Two

Slag Hammer

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Two Piece Dress: Front

Two Piece Dress

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Japanese Geta Sandles

"Geta" Japanese Sandals

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Ladies' Red Cross Uniform: Front

Red Cross Uniform

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Wedding Dress: Front

Wedding Dress

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Ski Suit: Front

Ski Suit

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