For the past few decades, Paris had dominated the fashion world. However, after the invasion of Paris, America took the place at the design worlds’ center stage. The economy improved drastically at the outset of the war, however rationing still limited fashion in many ways. Cost was no longer an object, but acquiring the materials to make the piece was. Nylon being rationed for war use limited the amount of Nylon available for use in stockings. Similar stories of market items like shoes and handbags being removed from the shelves stem from the rationing on silk, leather, and rubber. Most designers found ways around rationing by either substituting materials or omitting useless flourishes. Dressing during wartime was about conformity. The uniform military lifestyle permeated into the clothing during wartime and most clothing was mended rather than replaced for the first half of the 40’s. The latter half saw a complete reversal. Men’s clothing became increasingly more casual while on leisure. Colorful vibrant patters began springing up in dress. Hairstyles also changed to match the variety appearing in clothing. (Pendergast, 800)
Pictured above is the Mahwah Fire Department. Here one can clearly see how the military style of clothing carried over. The Fire Department is a volunteer civilian force yet they have a distinct uniform that looks like it could be part of the army. The brass buttons columns and solid fabric that is completely identical in every way to the next guy in line shows how the war’s military culture began to effect even the civilian populace.
The two working men in Mahwah’s experimental foundry show how drastically men’s fashion changed in the 1940’s. Up until the 40’s suits and formal looking wear were worn almost at all times. Here, two gentlemen are seen wearing much more relaxed attire. Flannels and shirts of different colors and fabrics began to be worn during work or leisure time. Men’s fashion began to have very distinct styles that separated the blue collar working men from the white collar.