During the war of the 1940's there were severe fabric shortages. This meant that clothes were made with a minimum of fabric, few pleats and no trimmings.
To demonstrate that these limitations didn't necessarily signal the end to style and fashion, London's top fashion designers were asked by the Board of Trade to create a year-round collection. The focus of the collection was on line and cut, which create a elegant and simple look. This tailored and slim line silhouette, with pronounced shoulders and nipped in waists became standard wartime look.
Skirts were straight with a kick pleat or gently flared and hemlines were 18 inches from the ground, just below the knee. To add detail to the garments imaginative placement of pockets or buttons were used. Even some garments used the military style with breast pockets or belts and small collars.
The shoes that were worn were chunky and solid with wedges or low 2" heels. Open toe shoes were banned as impractical and unsafe.
Hand knitting became very popular in the 1940's as women on the home front could make a contribution to the war effort by knitting for the troops. Many specialized patterns were developed such as the balaclava helmet with ear flaps for the use in telephone operations or the mittens with a separate forefinger for firing a trigger in the cold. Knit wear was also a cheap way to enhance a wardrobe and fine wool and pretty lace patterns became fashionable.
Women's fashion after WW2
After the war women were ready for a change, tired of much tailored garments. In 1947, Christian Dior introduced the "New Look", featuring longer lengths and fuller skirts. The use of many yards of fabric in garments was now seen as lavish and opulent. These changes in fashion create a soft, feminine and romantic image.
Peplums with are a flounce or short, flared flap attached at the waist of a dress, blouse, coat, etc. and extending around the hips were very fashionable. Skirt hems, necklines and waists had ruffles. A-line skirts were topped with soft, feminine blouses. The blouses donned bows at the centre-front neckline and could have full or puffy sleeves. Collars were cut generously full.
Undergarments at the end of the 1940's were made into two separate pieces, the bra and the girdle. After World War II, wire was introduced into bras and nylon stockings were back on the market.