Part 1 - The War Years, 1940-1945 - (Go To Part 2 - The New Look, 1946-1949)

McCall Style News

(Spring Dresses. Spring street costumes have a smart military dash this season...

Sashes and Gee-Gaws. There seems to be accumulating evidence of the return of sashes, neck frillers, and the little etcetera gee-gaws so beloved by the mid-Victorian folk. Many of the dresses today are so plain they require some ornamentation to "lift" them, hence contrast belts, buckles, sashes, novelty enamel knick-knacks are made full use of.
Of course, contrast buttons in bright hues form a trimming in themselves.

Evening Dresses. Evening dresses do not make any lavish display of either chest or back. You remember the style that used to show so much of the back as to be almost indecent!
Frocks today depend on their drapings very largely, and in this regard there is much room for individual artistry.
Artificial sprays are also used for corsage decoration. Hair dressing is short-waved; elaborate bunched up coiffures are things of the past.
It is rare to see a full bare-armed evening frock; short puffed sleeves are de riguer.

Australian Home Journal, August 1940)

catalogue, Winter 1940

Vogue Pattern Book, 1940

*NEW* Stitchcraft 1940

(Wasp Waist Returns. Hour glass figures are in again - the wasp waist that grandma had and grandpa loved. Victorian smartness seems a little distant, but do please remember that it can be done to-day. Just a matter of "foundations".

Australian Home Journal, September 1940)

Australian Home Journal
, July 1940

Cover of Housewife, October 1940

Australian Home Journal, 1941

*NEW* Stitchcraft 1941

Vogue Pattern Book, 1941

Photo, captioned "To Uncle Wilf, with Compliments, May 21st 1941".
(This bridal couple are austerely dressed, as befits a wartime wedding. He wears an ordinary lounge suit; she what appears to be her "best" suit, somewhat mannishly tailored. While white weddings did not disappear entirely during the war, they became increasingly difficult to stage, both from a lack of materials and from a lack of time. Many couples opted for something simpler, as in the photograph above.)

(House Clothes. ... A great many women nowadays find two or three sets of slacks ideal for summer house wear. They are handy and great savers of stockings as they permit of stockings being discarded altogether, and you know what a price stockings are to-day!

Knitted Footies or Sockettes. These are a most necessary article of wear in these days of painted legs. No one likes bare feet in shoes, so make a pair of them.

Australian Home Journal, March 1942.)

Gor-Ray skirt advertisement, 1942

*NEW* Australian Home Journal, 1942

*NEW* Vogue Pattern Book 1942

*NEW* Stitchcraft, 1942

(Clothes rationing was introduced into Australia in June 1942.)

("Those Useful Slacks. ... Now that the coupon rationing has come to pass, slacks for all kind of uses are more necessary than ever.
Of course, for the air raid shelter, and any sudden emergency or alarm, there is nothing more suitable than slacks. You are covered up straight away and you feel clothed in them. Also the wear you get is unusually good. Slacks can either be dry-cleaned or wet-cleaned (wet-cleaned for preference), and they are quite easily ironed.

Coupon Using. Now that coupons are in evidence, mothers must use their heads in the purchasing of right materials, as coupons cramp one's style very much.

Don't buy a too noticeable material, and avoid large pattern designs. In other words, conspicuous cloths are uneconomic."

Australian Home Journal, September 1942)

*NEW* Wake's catalogues, Winter 1942 and Spring-Summer 1942-43

catalogue, circa. 1942-1943

(As clothes rationing started to bite, it became necessary as well as patriotic "Make Do and Mend" rather than buying new clothes. Newspapers, magazines and government departments were full of suggestions for turning old clothes into new ones.

"Renovating Prudes. Some womenfolk frown on the idea of renovating. "It sounds like a secondhand shop," said a social climber in a patronising way. There is nothing to be ashamed of in renovation to-day, thank goodness. The most extravagant of women are compelled to curb their spending, and fastidious though they be, rejuvenation must come into their scheming. Clothes rationing is making us all very ingenious and a great deal cleverer than we ever suspected.

Short Skirts. The recent announcement in the daily papers that skirts are to be shorter to conserve material, makes me think of a definite danger point in dress - too short skirts.

Short skirts are charming on young people, and they're quite good on even the elderly woman so long as she has slender legs. But they are positively horrible on the thick-legged woman, whatever be her age. So though you desire to follow all government suggestions, if your legs are stubby, don't have your skirts too short... "

Australian Home Journal, September 1942.)

McCall Style News
, 1943

(No Elastic. Make your own underwear and don't use elastic! It is important to note this as coupons have to be expended in the purchase of elastic so we are helping the war effort in the saving of rubber.

Save Coupons. Now that evening frocks are practically taboo, and you haven't any use for the ones you have - don't put them aside with a "After the War I'll wear them again." After the war there will be new fashions and ten chances to one they will not be worn again. Make hay while the sun shines and save the coupons you would have otherwise spent on new materials.

Australian Home Journal, October 1942.)

*NEW* Butterick Pattern Book 1943

Butterick Fashion News
, 1943

*NEW* Vogue Pattern Book 1943

Australian Home Journal
, 1943

*NEW* Stitchcraft 1943

(Dearer Clothes. Every woman knows that clothes to-day are much dearer than before the war. An early summer work-a-day skirt and blouse now costs from 3/15/- upwards; pre-war the price was 2/6/-. The material is not up to the earlier standard. And there is no immediate likelihood of prices lowering or material improving.

So hold on to what you have, and don't hesitate to alter and make-do rather than buy something new.

Australian Home Journal, December 1943.)

Style News, 1944

Montgomery Ward catalogue, Summer 1944

Australian Home Journal
, 1944

Woman and Home, February 1944
(Dressing for the war effort - these women have tucked their hair up into snoods and caps to prevent it catching in machinery, and are wearing sensible overalls with sleeves rolled up. Perhaps they have been working on the plane belonging to the dashing young pilot they're chatting to?)

"The coffee shops were full of diverting people, artists, actors, producers, model girls groomed to enamel smoothness. They all had their hair up in the front and down at the back, and stood with one hip forward, maybe to make themselves look narrower. Poor things, like the rest of us they wore austerity garments with tight hems and mighty Joan Crawford shoulders.

'Why does every girl look carrot-shaped?' wondered my husband.

'Blame Mr Dedman!'

John Dedman, Minister for War Organisation of Industry, was the joke figure of the Battle for Australia. He had great power. Being allowed to make decisions on his own, he took on some of the mythos of Hitler...

Mr Dedman was also responsible for monstering clothing manufacturers into using a painful minimum of fabric for women's garments. We all developed an obsessive yearning for pleats and flares, but didn't get them."

Ruth Park, Fishing in the Styx, 1993.

My Home
, August 1944

Stitchcraft, 1944

Vogue Pattern Book, 1944

McCall Style News, 1945

(Holiday Season. This holiday season the beaches and the mountains will be extremely active, regardless of restrictions on travel and hotel and guest house bookings. People feel that the major part of the war is nearing its end and they can express their joy in colourful dressing at holiday resorts.

Australian Home Journal, January 1945.)

Australian Home Journal, 1945

Wake's catalogue, 1945

Wife and Home, 1945

(The picture on the right is of night wear.)

(Liberal Lines. The biggest news of styles is that lines of clothes are being liberated at a very encouraging pace.

While Government restrictions on the amount of cloth you can have in any one dress are still controlling any wild and untrammelled freedom of the silhouette, there are points on that silhouette which designers have succeeded in liberating.

And, I hear from what are known as "reliable sources," by spring you are going to see much more liberation...

And there is a lot of talk about the imminent release of skirts to real all-around fulness. I wouldn't bank on this too much, however, not for a while.

Australian Home Journal, June 1945.

"Ella's Wedding, Sept' 1st 1945, 'The Knoll' Booth R'd, Bowden, Cheshire"
(A photograph showing a group of people in their "best" at the end of World War II. Rationing had been particularly stringent in Britain - where this photograph was taken - so many of the clothes worn here had probably been carefully preserved from before the war. Note the absence of young men - indeed, of young women as well!)

*NEW* Vogue Pattern Book 1945

Stitchcraft, 1945