Fashion in the 40’s: Style in time of crisis

A post by Claire Rochet

When referring to Fashion in the 40’s, you probably think about the words seductive, glamour, sophistication… anything but austerity! Apart from being a decade characterised by a killer style, it’s hard to forget that at the very same time one of the most atrocious wars of all time was taking place. However, despite being a very dark moment in history, fashion was still as important as before and it played a crucial role in many people’s lives.

More than ever, women started to take care with every detail of their appearance which allowed them not only to preserve their dignity but also to distract themselves with something fun and light-hearted. Needless to say that the notion of superficiality had a whole different meaning to now where it is negatively associated to the useless and flavourless.

 The clothes rationing regulations that were introduced by the Government on 1st June 1941 drastically limited womens’ possibilities with dressing but although they had to face a multitude of mitigating circumstances women tended to put much more effort into preserving their allure.

 One of the most fascinating inventions of that time relating to fashion was liquid silk stockings which consisted of painting your legs with a special product that would make them looked tanned as if you were wearing stockings. The more ‘coquette’ of them would even add the seams behind their legs by using a pencil or a specific device that would avoid any tremors.

Liquid stockings 2 Liquid stockings

With the lack of nylon and silks, paint-on stockings became a new source of business, entailing the creation/launch of dedicated cosmetics and more surprisingly, leg makeup bars!


With nylon and silk being used as the main material in the production of parachutes, the war forced a decrease in sale for stockings. As a crucial finishing touch to any wardrobe, women didn’t give up and employed their creativity to find cheap and innovative subterfuges!

If you want to learn more about Fashion in the 40’s and practice some original ‘Make do and mend’ tips, we recommend that you join us at St Cecilia’s Hall on Saturday May the 17th where we will bring the 40’s back to life and show you how create your own one off fashionable vintage piece! There’s no better place than the mythic Excelsior Ballroom, which made people swing between 1938 and 1959, to discover the “Mrs or Mr Sew and Sew”[1] that rests in you.

Everyone is welcome to this free event, whether you are a beginner an expert or just curious! So please don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind opportunity. We hope to see you all there very soon!

[1]In response to the clothes rationing, the British Board of Trade created the fictional character Mrs Sew and Sew, who would issued precious ‘Make Do and Mend’ advice, through a series of utilitarian leaflets.


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