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03 Oct 2012:

Where to Buy Stuff page updated


















































































































































































































By the time clothes rationing was introduced As material was very scarce, women's clothing became less flamboyant than in the 1920s and early 1930s. Clothes were made with a minimum of fabric, few pleats and no trimmings. Skirts were a little below the knee and straight, worn with boxy jackets and broad, padded shoulders. Many men and women wore uniforms. Clothes from the 1930's were often re-used and spruced up to make them look more "fashionable"; make-do-and-mend was the order of the day. If you go to car-boots or charity shops you can sometimes find clothes that are the same style those worn in the 1940s i.e. - dresses, hats, cardigans, handbags, sometimes the occasional fur. It means searching constantly.

Original, genuine 1940s clothing usually has marked on it CC41. This is the "Civilian Utility" clothing made to a standard pattern in 1941 and carried on throughout the war. Patterns involved the least amount of material possible.  To get hold of such clothing the best way today is via the internet. eBay has pages of vintage 1940s clothes for sale i.e. - underwear, dresses, coats, hats, shoes, handbags stockings etc, and there are a few specialist suppliers of WW2 civilian clothing.

Attempts were made to brighten up the utilitarian look with frivolous little hats which were concocted from raffia, ribbon, curtain fabric, even paper. Old straw and felt hats were expertly remodelled and trimmed with feathers or homemade silk flowers. Brightly patterned silk headscarves bound round the head like a turban were very popular

Stockings of all types were scarce. Not even rayon stockings were readily available. Women were encouraged to wear ankle socks. Stockings might be found on the black market and later in the war many befriended an American G.I. in the hope of a pair of the new nylon stockings. Otherwise it was make do and mend again and in the case of stockings, make do with leg make up or gravy browning and get a friend to draw a straight line down the back of the leg.

EBay is also a very useful research tool to use just for browsing to find examples of period clothing - although be aware that some items may be listed as "genuine 40s" but probably aren't.  We have found that eBay sellers can be notoriously optimistic when dating what they sell - they know that simply listing something as genuine 40s (when it actually isn't) gets more interest and potentially makes it more valuable.

For the larger lady it is easier to get someone to make the dresses for you but make sure they do not use modern materials.  Remember, nylon was only just coming out in the USA in the 40s!! If you have long legs ensure that the stockings will be long enough as the originals were only for standard 40s size people who were shorter than many of us are today.

If there are any problems, you can always ask other re-enactors for advice. Once you have made friends you can compare with each other. If you are going as a civvie or into uniform then beforehand look in the library / internet / war movies / to ensure you get it all correct.



Hairstyles had no spikes and perms, or coloured highlights.  The height of fashion at the time was to roll longer hair up into a "snood", but more glamorous looking hair had swept back curls.  You could also try rolling your hair into those little sponge rollers that you can still buy in the likes of Boots. 

We can't all have personal stylists like the model shown opposite during a 40s style fashion shoot, but you might like to try the following technique if you have hair of a similar length:-

  • Apply GHD thermal protector and S Factor Heat Protector and Shine spray before curling your hair with GHD straighteners.

  • Backcomb sections around the front of the hair, smoothing them into barrel curls before pinning them into place. Finish with a spritz of Hard Head hairspray.

  • To achieve a 1940s complexion. apply a velvet matt finish with Fix fluid foundation or similar to match your skin tone.  Apply Brule eyeshadow to the eyelid, Number 7 false lashes and Black Track fluid liner, using a 263-angle brush to give it a flick

  • For the lips, try Brick lip-liner, then apply a striking shade of MAC Red lipstick. A dusting of Sincere powder blusher over the cheeks should give the finishing touch.



There are a few great websites which go into considerable detail about ladies' fashions, clothing, hair, make-up and accessories of the 1940s period.  Rather than copy that information here, click on the links below to have a look for yourself on some of them.  Happy surfing :-)


Hats and furs were all the rage for women in the 1940s (and 1950s!).




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