Pixie Faire Style Guide 1940s Fashion For Dolls
We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you make a historically accurate 1940s look for your doll, such as Molly McIntire®! This period of history was dominated by World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945 (the United States, however, did not enter the war until December of 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor). Despite only lasting six years, the war had an impactful influence on the fashion industry, both domestically and abroad. To understand 1940s fashion, focus on these five key components: separates, dresses, utility clothes, girls’ clothing, and accessories. Use these elements to put together your own 1940s outfit for your doll.
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WWII AND THE AMERICAN FASHION INDUSTRY
The American fashion industry would probably not be where it is today without World War II. Before World War II, Americans copied their fashions from Europe. Some American brands would actually go so far as to send “spies” over to Paris to watch their runways and sketch down the latest looks as quickly as possible. These sketches would then be brought back to the United States where they would be put into production for the American market. When the war broke out across Europe, nearly all fashion houses were shut down. The fashion industry was especially hard hit when the Germans started their occupation of Paris in 1940. Between no new looks coming from Europe and the United States still living a somewhat peaceful life outside of the war, America was in need of clothing. This encouraged the development of the American fashion industry which has since become one of the leading influences in the fashion world.
One favored look of the 1940s were separates for women, particularly the skirt suit. When the men went off to fight in the war, the women had to pick up the slack on the home front. Women worked in factories, businesses, and even in the military and each one needed something to wear. Hence the skirt suit emerged, which was both business professional and still feminine. It could be casually worn for errands or decorated for military officers. The popular jacket style for skirt suits was well-tailored with boxy, padded shoulders, and peplum-waisted (which emphasized the hour-glass figure that was highly favored at the time). The skirt of the suit would fall past the knee and could either be full or tight depending on the occasion.
When women weren’t needing special clothes for the workforce, they would still often opt for dresses. Dresses were often simplistic and plain due to the war. Hemlines were cut to the knee and extraneous embellishments were removed to keep the clothes from becoming too wasteful. Skirts on dresses were A-line shaped to give flare, without using too much fabric. Sleeves were shorter (to the elbow or above) and had very little extra puff to preserve fabric usage. Like the jackets of the skirt suits, shoulders were boxy and often accentuated using shoulder pads. Dresses nearly always had belts made of coordinating or matching fabrics and larger, military-inspired lapels. Popular neckline styles on dresses ranged from V-neck to sweetheart necklines. Other popular dress styles at the time included button-down shirt dresses and wrap dresses.
Born from necessity, utility clothes were some of the most dominating items during the 1940s. Clothing and textiles were rationed because of the ongoing war and the tireless war effort. In places like Britain, where the war was particularly bad, government-mandated rationing was taken to the extreme. Utility clothes were effortlessly practical. They were made to be worn across all the seasons only using specific, carefully curated, and government-rationed fabrics. They were designed with simple lines and rarely featured extraneous trimmings. The line of utility garments ranged from menswear to childrenswear and covered everything in between. Removing pockets, thinning collars, reducing the number of buttons, and other measures were taken to ensure that no large amount of fabric was being used unnecessarily. It has been estimated that because of the austerity utility clothing, nearly 4 million square yards of cotton (not including other popular fabrics) were saved for the war effort.
GIRLS’ CLOTHING TRENDS
Like through much of history, girl’s clothing in the 1940s followed somewhat closely with what their mothers or older sisters would wear. During the 1940s, girls would mostly wear dresses with simple lines, similar to shapes that adult women would wear. Girls’ dresses, however, would feature many more frills than their adult counterparts. Things like lace, ribbons, smocking, and extra buttons were added to make outfits feel more youthful and fun. Shorts for casual wear were also introduced into girls’ wardrobes during this time because they used less fabric (which was good for rationing) and were more comfortable (which was good for play). Rationing coupons and limitations were more flexible for children’s wear during this time because children outgrow clothes quickly. Newly developed synthetic fabrics (see FABRIC AND PRINTS below) were favored for children’s wear because it made the clothes more durable and less costly to produce and purchase. Also important to note during this era was the division between “girl colors” and “boy colors.” For one of the first times in history color differentiation between the genders was taking place. Girls adopted colors like the traditional pink or other pastels and boy took on darker, more masculine looking colors like blue, green, or grey.
Even though the world was desperate to reserve extraneous goods during the war, women still found ways to accessorize properly. Apart from stockings, other popular accessories at the time were belts, gloves, and headscarves. As mentioned in the dresses section above, belts were nearly always featured on dresses, or even on women’s pants and skirt suits too. Belts at the time were thin, plain, and fabric-covered to match outfits. Past the early 1940s, belts did not feature metal buckles because of the metal rationing at the time. Instead, a tie-front belt was the most popular style during the war. After the war, belts became larger, featured metal closures, and came in many different materials, like leather or plastic (which weren’t offered during the war). Gloves were always worn outside of the house and were made out of leather or suede whenever possible. They were usually made in neutral colors so that they could be worn with many different outfits. Sometimes they would be coordinated to the hat for an extra-stylish look. One final popular accessory of the 1940s would have been the headscarf. Headscarves were large, triangular fabric cuts (usually rayon, or, if possible, silk), and tied around the head to protect women’s hair and keep it out of their faces. They are one of the most iconic women’s accessories from the 1940s thanks to the Rosie the Riveter drawings.
FABRIC AND PRINTS
Despite the darkness of the world (and maybe even in defiance to it), womenswear throughout the 1940s opted for vibrant and happy colors. While some colors did come in and out of popularity throughout the decade, colors like navy blue, pink, golden yellow, red, and a range of greens were consistently popular. In the summer, pastel versions of these colors were most commonly used. During the winter, stronger and bolder versions of these colors were used. These colors were used in a variety of prints, but the most favored were polka dots, plaids, stripes, checks, florals, and abstract prints. The desired fabric choices of the time were rayon, wool, cotton, jersey knit, velvet, or even silk on rare occasions. Take a look below for our suggested fabric choices!
Pixie Faire offers a wide variety of 1940s inspired patterns for a variety of doll sizes Check out the full collection HERE!
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For Pixie Faire, Katie
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