Rationing enforced an era of obligatory minimalism when the Second World War broke out. From 1939-1946 rationed restricted consumerisms; and the extravagant silver screen star look of the 30s was now viewed as ostentatious, vulgar, and unpatriotic. Luxurious fabrics like silk and nylon were used for parachutes and mattresses became life jackets. Rayon, viscose, and blackout material were the fabrics left to use on clothes. Designers on both sides of the
Atlantic were called up to do their part, and the British Board of Trade drafted a group of designers to create a complete civilian “utility” wardrobe to be mass produced. Restrictions banned wasteful cutting and excess trimmings, so hemlines became shorter and dresses became more fitted. Thus the ready-to-wear designer took over the couturiers, during the war. Women also rolled up their sleeves and went to work, while the men fought overseas. Women who worked the land wore corduroy trousers and dungarees, and bundled their hair into a colorful scarf. Women’s daywear was quick and to the point, with sharp-shouldered jackets and knee length skirts. And as the war continued, women concocted a new mix and match blueprint to make the most of their wardrobes. Suits allowed for mixing and matching shirts and skirts. As, materials such as straw ran out, women improvised with scraps of dresses to make miniature doll-sized hats which were worn perched on the head. Gals also wore heavy shoes, often with wooden soles to save on leather. In fact Vogue patriotically focused on ‘Do it yourself’ fashion and ‘Make Do and Mend’, advising sewing different colored ribbons into pleats of skirts, and adorning black dresses with sequins and paisley pockets and turning maternity capes into reefer jackets. Women were essential in the war effort and joined the Navy WAVES, the Army WACs and WASPs, Army nurses, the Coast Guard SPARS, and the Marine Corps Womens Reserve.
(images scanned from: Decades of Fashion: Getty, Dressing Up Vintage, Vintage Fashion. Life. http://www.womenofwwii.com/ )