The United States government put a great number of restrictions on raw materials during World War II, for every resource that could be used for war efforts was needed. The war had priority so the military need for materials such as wool and cotton had to be fulfilled first before they could be used by civilians for the main purpose of the manufacturing of clothing. The restrictions on resources such as these drastically changed the fashion trends of women in the United States during the time period of World War II, for major fashion houses had to adjust to the limitations put on them since the responsibility of clothing rationing was on the manufacturers.
An important figure in the American fashion world, Stanley Marcus (of Neiman Marcus) created new rules for the garment industry that restricted the amount of fabric that could be used to create a garment, starting in 1941 soon after the United States joined World War II in December of that year after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Clothing, dresses for example, became much shorter than what had been the normal prior to 1941 because the extra material needed to make dressed below the knees what deemed wasteful in wartime. There were very heavy fines and potential jail time for manufacturers that broke the rules set by the L-85, the other name for limitation order for clothing. Examples of these limitations brought on to clothing manufacturers included no hoods, no more than one pocket of twenty-five square inches of material, no tabs on shoulders of coats, sleeve circumference limited to sixteen inches, no more than two buttons, extermination of ruffles and lace, and many more. Since traditional feminine clothing such as ruffles and lace were no longer available to women, hats became a way to express felinity while maintaining the war-time figure imposed upon every woman to be. Leather was also not allowed to be used in the making of civilian shoes, for it all went into the manufacturing of soldiers’ leather boots. The “wedge shoe” was born when cork replaced leather for the soles of shoes. Trousers were also made widely popular in women’s style due to the increasing number of females in the workforce. Trousers became a fashion statement for women across the country, symbolizing independence and equality to that of men. Another change in fashion was what fashion houses commercialized as the latest way of accessorizing. To keep up with the rising nationalism in the United States caused by the current state of war, American designers used propaganda as an accessory, which included pins with patriotic messages added on to clothing, hats, and scarves to jazz up women’s outfits. These accessories helped maintain the united patriotic front encouraged by the government.
Due to the vast changes in fashion provoked by World War II’s rationing limitations on civilian resources for the good of the war and military, women found new ways to appear beautiful and strong through the new fashion trends that were sweeping the nation. The new fashion statements they donned showed their support and patriotism for their country, the United States, fighting in the total war.
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Mason, Meghann, “The impact of World War II on women’s fashion in the United States and Britain” (2011). UNLV Theses/ Dissertations/Professional Papers/Capstones. Paper 1390.