Doing Men's Work...Fabric Rationing...War Affected Everything.
And Made the USA the World's Fashion Leader
Paris lost its leadership in the world of fashion due to the German occupation of World War II. That's when American fashion designers stepped into the breach and their ingenuity brought about new fashion innovations that are part of today's contemporary fashion lexicon.
It was a natural progression since women were leaving the familiar confines of home and replacing soldiers overseas to join the war effort in factories, offices and farms. So sumptuous fabrics and superfluous trimming faded in favor of a woman's working wardrobe. And so the fun began!
Films of the wartime era depict the stylish debut of women wearing trousers, in everything from silk to denim jeans. The jumpsuit was born. This new-at-the-time innovation was warm, stylish and comfortable with pockets for papers and valuables. As are jeans, it's a fashion staple.
America emerged as a fashion leader as"war-wise" dressing became a necessity. Since wool was used for soldiers' needs, fabric designers revolutionized the fashion industry with blends made of recycled wool and rayon. Yet more fashion staples and a widely popular category of fabric manufacturing.
Britain and the US put restrictions on the use of materials in the production of garments. So less fabrics meant lean styles. Hemlines went up and sexy pencil skirts became the rage and remain classic. Oddly enough, sequins, unnecessary for the war effort, popped up on sweaters to add a note of glitz.
Hollywood still depicted glamor. But female stars portrayed a new kind of elegance. In the 1945 movie Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford appears as a struggling single mother who dresses for success in attractive yet severe styles. The beautiful Lauren Bacall in the Big Sleep (1946) appears sexy and glamorous in slacks, sequins and draped rayon couture creations. All "made in the USA."
Shorter skirts focused on legs, legs, legs. Legs were "in" as exemplified by the famous pinup of Betty Grable looking over her shoulder in a swim suit. Sexier still, bare legs were seen with street and evening clothes since nylon rationing was in force.
In 1947, when restrictions reduced the amount of fabric used in the manufacture of swim suits, a bombshell fashion trend called the bikini exploded on beaches all over the world.
World War ll officially put women in the workforce where they have become a potent force in the US economy. And, rocketed the US to world prominence for fashion design and manufacturing. Proving once again how American ingenuity triumphs.