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!
Light Pink Ditsy Floral from Joann Fabrics
Buffalo Check Cotton from Joann Fabrics
Royal White Dot from Joann Fabrics
Heathered Brown Solid Wool Flannel from Mood Fabrics
Pea Green Rose Floral from Mood Fabrics
Pixie Faire offers a wide variety of 1940s inspired patterns for a variety of doll sizes Check out the full collection HERE!
We'd love to see your creations too, so if you make one, please tag us on Instagram @PixieFaire
You can also share pictures in the Pixie Faire Inspiration Gallery right here on the website, either use the #pixiefaire when posting on IG, or just click the little + box to upload your picture right here on the website!
For Pixie Faire, Katie
(This post and giveaway are not endorsed or affiliated with American Girl®, no endorsement implied.)
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and tell us, What fashion element of the 40s do you admire most?
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Thank you for all the research you put into these era-appropriate posts. I really appreciate having these references to start from.
Thank you so very much for all the giveaways, that you have done, I really like that they are done on this blog through rafflecopter,because not everyone has all the social media platforms, and doing it this way lets everyone have a chance to enter, even though they don’t have the social media platforms, so thank you again!
I enjoyed reading the article of 1940’s fashion and the pictures. My grandma was able to look at the magazine pictures and make my young mother clothes and doll clothes.
I love seeing the vintage pictures. What would be fun, I think, is to have those vintage pictures next to a piece of doll clothing that was made in the same style! I’ll definitely have to check out the clothes available.
I loved that you ran an article that gave details of the clothing and time period. Very informative and encouraged me to make some of the styles. Please do more of this. It’s great
I love to look at my mother and grandmother in old photos to see what they weren’t wearing. They were very classy
My favorite thing about the 40s style has to be all of the frills! I also loooove the patterned skirt suits.
I was born in the 1940’s so I have lots of photo’s of myself & my two sisters. Loved the dresses that my Mom used to make for us. Loved the styles. My granddaughter loses my Molly doll & her 40’s clothes.
I truly enjoyed the fashion article on the 40’s. I make doll dresses for the 10inch dolls.
Although I prefer the more frilly styles of the Victorian era, there is no denying that this era made waves in our society and continues to show up still in today’s clothing. The children’s clothing are adorable and I love that PF contains so many patterns that are available in an ode to the 40’s.
I love 40s designs.
such cute clothes. My parents were married in the 40’s and wore one of those suits. thanks for the inspiration!
I love the rick-rack detailing on 1940s clothing!
I love the use of trims and structured styling! These designs are a fun opportunity to have fun with notions and design!
I love the embellishments used on girls’ dresses such as buttons, ruffles, lace, smocking, ribbons, etc. I also love the pastel-colored solids and prints which were mentioned in the article. As far as women’s fashions of the 1940s, I love the sweetheart neckline, coordinating fabric belts, gloves, and headscarves. Thank you for this interesting post about fashion history of the 1940s and for offering this giveaway! :0}
I especially love that you include the history of our nation during this painful time period. It is important for children to learn and never forget.
Thank you for your generosity every Friday.
Love the bright colours
40’s fashions are so classy and sophisticated!
I loved the fitted style of the 40’s. The clothes were more feminine, no women’s lib styles even though women were working & doing some men’s job’s. I liked the narrowed look of the waistlines often with a peplum on the bottom of the jacket. I even like it for a look for today except that I no longer have a waistline.
So fun reading about why the designs were like that. I remember my mom and grandmothers wearing these styles. And the prints were certainly distinctive!
I really enjoyed learning about 40’s fashion. It’s one of my favorite eras. Classy, classic and beautiful!
The 40’s have always been one of my favorite eras, since I love to Lindy Hop. Dressing up for dances in 40’s style is so fun!
The 40’s have always been one of my favorite eras, since I love to Lindy Hop. Dressing up for dances in 40’s style is so fun!
I love the fitted suits, but I will admit I like pretty much all the styles from the 1940s.
Loved the article and the movement of womenswear. I still like the A-line so I guess its classic
Loved the article and the movement of womenswear. I still like the A-line so I guess its classic.
I was born after this time, so I didn’t get to wear the dresses, but later in time my mother made some that looked as she had worn them herself. I loved wearing what she made for me, because I could wear them with a ruffled slip. Thank you mom.
The 40’s offered some classic lines and timeless style. In fact, when going through my mother’s closet one day, I found a 1949 Bride’s magazine that contained a picture of the dress my mother copied to make her own wedding dress worn the following year. It was made of satin and lace; a classic fitted bodice, a peplum, and a gathered skirt that had tiers of lace down the front panel. It cost her $20.00 to make and I was honored to wear it for my wedding day, 31 years later.
I enjoy the little girls’ dressed as that would have been what my mom would have worn.
I love large military lapels and jackets, the ones with all the shiny buttons down the front. I like that the dresses had slim skirts that weren’t too full.
Thanks for the opportunity. Happy stitching!!
Love 40 styles.
I love how resourceful the people were. Coming out of the Great Depression they were already having to be clever and frugal with things like fabric. The war continued this and the styles they came up with to use less fabric and other resources are one of my favorite time periods for fashion. Frugal, yet feminine. (for the women!) Classy and classic. Practical, but cute.
The 40’s were feminine, yet practical.
I like the cuts, modest and classic with curves
Loved the 40’s style dresses
These are some of the clothes my mom would have worn. I know a very special little girl who would love some for her American girl doll.
I really like the skirt suits. Thanks for the giveaway!
That era was before my time (1955), but I love the fashion of those years, especially little girls’ dresses that were so cute and adorable, class was the theme. I’d like to see a few patterns for some dolls with the in-fashion pants for women at the time. As they were not that current, they were sometimes still controversial, and yet they were a great fit and still feminine. I bought this pattern featured last week both for the AM 18’’ dolls and the Ruby Red which can find the retro look so well.
These fashions remind me of my Mom’s clothing when I was a little girl. I love all the styles. The pictures bring back pleasant memories. I have lots of trims and fabric – would love to get new patterns and bring some of those fashions to life – in miniature!
I love the almost taylored “fit” look of the dresses in this time frame. The slight flair of the skirts especially is something I would wear due to my larger hips. It’s just a very classy look. I had a dress that “looked” from this era even though it wasn’t, and I wore holes into it. Always received many compliments.
This is one of my favorite eras in fashion in addition to the early 1950’s I love the structured suits and have fond memories of my mother’s wedding suit. My father was Catholic and mother wasn’t so they were forbidden to marry in the church but could use the rectory. She wore a gorgeous salmon wool suit, crisp white blouse, alligator shoes and purse (yes, the were real at the time) and a lovely hat with veil. One roses and babies breath were there flowers. A small tea party reception and beautiful cake. I also love scarves especially the full square silk ones that every proper lady wore if she went outside and her gloves.
I’m fascinated by the influence of the war years and depression to use resources wisely, use what you have, and conserve via design and construction.
I love the way most of the styles worked so well with flour sack fabrics. I was born in 1949 so that’s where most of my clothes came from.
The introduction of shorts and halter tops was a refreshing change.
This is certainly timely! I recently got Nanea, and my interest in her time period is growing. I’m looking at the AG releases for her, and anything about what she would wear, things she would be doing, typical life in her time.
I love the little girl style. They are so cute! They also make me think about my mother as a little girl. These were the styles that she wore in pictures.
Love that little girls had style!
I like the stylish dresses of the time.
I love the style of these dresses and the colors are perfect! 😊
I love the style of these dresses and the colors are perfect! 😊
I love the use of fabric to be both feminine and utilitarian. So many of the fabrics available today
are great for this era’s fashions especially for the dolls. The designers have done an awesome job of creating patterns for the 40s.
I like the 1940s dresses, they were simple but cute and sweet.
I like that little girls’ patterns were full of ruffles and other embellishments.
My favorites are the skirt suits, bomber jackets, and Rosie head scarfs- all fashion statements of the greatest generation!
Love the detail of the 1920’s. So creative in how the dress is constructed and the fabrics used. Feminine and utterly delightful and flirty.
Less severe than the 30’s but still had a high focus on utility.
Pixie Faire has the best patterns for ease of use, accuracy, and design. I redo AG dolls
and try to dress is periodic clothes when I resell them.
I enjoy watching movies that have the 1920 thru the 1950’s. There was a lot of embellishments.
What I love about the 1940s dress style are all the memories it brings back to me about my Mother and Grandmother whom are dressed like this in many of the old photographs we have left to remember them by.
I like the suits the women were wearing in the Armed Forces during the 1940s!!
What I admire most about 40s fashion is the insistence on making something pretty without wasting anything. I love those A-line skirts and wrap dresses especially! I just hate the removal of pockets—for some reason we’ve never gotten them back.
I like the trims, especially piping, for accents.
I remember the dresses.
I like the 1940’s style because it is simple and very much lady-like. Clean lines and very functional.
Love the 40’s styles for children. Very sweet dresses for girls. :)
I remember some of these dresses well, I grew up in the late 40’s — early 50’s. Love them.
I remember wearing little girl dresses that looked like the pictures shown. Memories….
I love the simplicity of the dresses and the simple patterns of the material.
My mother wore a suit when she married my dad in 1948.
I love the dresses for the girls. I love the full skirts, puffy sleeves and frills.
I loved the smocking and Rick rack on the children’s dresses.
love the pretty prints!
I love the full skirts and interesting waistlines. The details are so nice compared to t-shirts and jeans of today.
I love the full flowing skirts and the dainty puff sleeves. This style hides body imperfections instead of advertising them.
I love the femininity of the dresses — soft and flowing fabrics and maybe even a glimpse of a slip.
I love 1940s dresses they remind me of pictures of my grandma when she was a little girl
I love the bright colors and the simple, yet very elegant styles. Love all the frills on the girls dresses!
They look so sophisticated.
Love the suits
The suits were amazing!
I love the pictures of women in the Armed Forces during the 1940s,
I love the simple classic elegance of 1940s style. Feminine without being fussy, with enough influence from menswear to keep things interesting.
I like the fashions in the movie “Pearl Harbor”. The nurses uniforms are so cute!
I love the styles in the 1940’s era! It’s wonderful to create these dresses that were worn many years ago. You have many other era styles to choose from!
I think the 40’s were elegant, very lady like.
I love the dresses! Also the kerchiefs.
I admire the simplicity and clean lines at the dress
Very cute historical pieces for the dolls.
Love the fit and flare dresses and the soft prints
I love how the shirtwaist style dresses, and also how much more vivid and cheerful the fabric colors and prints were compared to earlier eras. (It’s always fun reading about these clothing eras!)
I just love the look of these older style of dresses.
I like the more structured looks that still looked very feminine.
I love rayon. I like the way it swishes when I move and feels so cool especially on a hot day. It also drapes nicely on dolls and people.
My favorite look of the 1940’s is the simplicity of the dresses mixed with beautiful prints. Women looked like women, proud and strong.
pleated skirts! And all the dresses had a tailored, neat look. When I was a teenager (in the 80’s), my aunt let me wear her old dresses that she saved from the 50’s! I loved them.
February 02, 2023
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