The 40’s were dominated by World War II. Fabric and notions shortages, men on the front, and women in the factories doing a “man’s job” was reflected in the everyday clothing for women. The American economy was being revived by the war but clothing stayed simple due to fabric rationing. Pockets became popular as embellishments, and skirts slimmer. Zippers made their appearance, and shoulder pads were added to give a man or woman a more imposing figure. This also could have been because women were given pamphlets on how to cut a man’s suit down to fit a woman. Unfortunately there were a lot of suits without men to wear them. Women were asked to put their aprons aside and put on coveralls to work. Dungaree shirts, pants and practical shoes became popular with women, and when the war was over, women held onto them. Men’swear became popular as leisure and work clothes for women, though not really acceptable for dinner or evening wear.
The 50’s woke up embracing the “New Look” that Dior debuted in Paris in 1947, heralding a new age of fashion. One where fabric and fashion were not limited by war, but celebrated by a new middle class with the glow of a strong economy and “safe”, happy homes. Women had discovered that they enjoyed working out of the home during the war. With so many men needing their jobs back, the happy housewife campaign was launched to entice women back into the art of homemaking.
Frilly aprons, day dresses, cocktail dresses, sportswear, shopping sets, and luscious accessories were just a few of the fashion bribes. And I imagine that they were hard to resist. Who doesn’t want to look great in a cocktail dress with a hostess apron over it, or lounging in a play set, sipping a martini by your pool? I do! Give me that matching hat and bolero jacket too! I think that the 50’s are when entertaining in your home became an art form. Your hostess outfit had to be as perfect as your jello mold. This need for middle class perfection followed women and fashion into the 60’s, and even the 70’s before coming to a grinding halt at the sight of those 80’s suits for women.