1940s Hairstyles and Fashion

1940s hairstyle and a shimmery silk blouse for women
Photo: Stokkete/Shutterstock
When I think of this era, I think of all the glamour. I'm not too far wrong, as Hollywood characterized the 1940s as a very romantic and glamorous time, with the debut of such movies as Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" and "A Streetcar named Desire.” Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby were crooning and swooning into the hearts of lovers everywhere. Comedians Jack Benny and Bob Hope were making people laugh in their living rooms while listening to their radios.
 
Tight sweaters were trendy as their boyfriends would pick them up in the zoot suit. Eyebrows were raised and disapproving looks came upon the scene as the two-piece bathing suit made its debut with many a distasteful frown. After all, what is this world coming to anyway?
 
Although the 1940s had feelings of passion and bewitchment, it was not without turbulence. Most countries around the globe were involved in World War II to prevent Adolf Hitler from taking over the world. Women were finally allowed to wear pants and work in factories for the war effort. This ordeal ushered in the Cold War years between the United States and Russia.
 
Most men in the US were drafted into the Army and either married their sweethearts before they left for war or when they returned, if they did. They danced to the tunes of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. These were the years of the big band sound of saxophones and clarinets that ushered in the swing and jitterbugging. Fashions were elegant as ladies out for the evening would not have been caught dead without gloves and looking altogether very feminine and definitely "in the mood" as the music played.
 
Sultry Mae West with much daring quoted her famous "Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" The ladies of that age were horrified by her boldness, while men laughed and loved her. The average salary during this decade was a mere $1,299 and the minimum wage was only $0.43 per hour. Only 55% of the people in the US had indoor plumbing. There were war bonds to buy and food rationing in effect. When the GIs returned from the war, the baby boom began.
 
1940s hairstyle for long hair
Photo: The Everett Collection/Canva
The fashions of this era were very practical, modest, elegant, and oh so classy. If I could put one word to the fashions of that era, it would be "mystery." Most of the time, men would use their imagination and wonder and dream about the woman they had such a crush on, because they usually didn't see much from the clothing they wore. The hemlines were below the knees, and dresses and suits were carefully tailored to fit the frame of the wearer, tucked in neatly with a belt. There were always shoulder pads under every dress, suit, and blouse.
 
Hats of all kinds were very fashionable and always worn. Some hats had large brims with a floppiness cocked to one side, while others dipped in the front, and others were worn completely on the crown, making the head look almost like the inside of a flower. Perhaps that was the idea at the time. There were other hats that had ribbons twined around them, with a large sash of a bow in the back or on the side, as the lady usually wore her hair up or back from her face. When she would marry, she would wear a veil over her face with the crown directly upon her head.
 
There were small hats with large feathers and large hats with small feathers or bows that sat directly atop her head and almost on her forehead. Some had ties going in the back of their hair, others had small veils to add mystery, some looked more like a very large hair ornament than a hat. Hats were considered a necessity, and most ladies would not think of leaving their homes without covering their heads in some way, even if it was a tasteful decorative scarf.
 
Their hairstyles were more modest, though. Just as bedazzling as their hats during this time, only in a different way. It was important for things to be organized during these troubled years, and their hairstyles and dress revealed this. Hair was washed with a simple shampoo, a thick styling agent was applied, and it was rolled with either clips, socks, scraps of material, or, in the late 1940s, rollers (mostly clips). A hairnet was placed carefully over the head as they sat under a very large tube-like hot dryer to dry. After taking the clips out, a vigorous brushing would follow as the stylist proceeded to design the hair in a style close to her head.
 
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By Penny | Updated | ©Hairfinder.com