Forties Fashion

From Siren Suits to the New Look



ISBN: 9780500288979 Category:

Jonathan Walford


This is the definitive book on fashion in the 1940s – from French style under the occupation and the ‘make do and mend’ approach to solving clothing shortages, through issues of dress, patriotism and propaganda and the development of faux fabrics and rationing, to the rise of American fashion houses and the New Look of the post-war period.

Some 250 illustrations reveal the wide range of fashions and styles that emerged throughout the Second World War, in Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan. During this period of conflict, fashion managed to express ideals of beauty, femininity and luxury even though practical considerations came first. Jonathan Walford details how fashion was considered not a frivolity but an aesthetic expression of circumstances. While Fascist states tried to create ‘national’ styles before the war began, by 1940 the pursuit of beauty was promoted on both sides of the conflict as a patriotic duty.

From pre-war to post-war, international attitudes emerge from period advertisements, images of real clothes, and first-hand accounts from contemporary publications. The result is a glorious celebration of everything from practical attire for air raids (hooded capes with large pockets, zipper-fronted jumpsuits and turbans) to street and anti-fashion, and the creation of Christian Dior’s New Look collection in 1947.

Richly illustrated and stylishly designed, Forties Fashion is an essential sourcebook for fashion professionals, and a feast for fashionistas looking for new retro ideas.

Additional information

Weight 1006 g
Dimensions 23.3 x 25 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 1 March 2011
Number of pages 208
Format Paperback / softback
Dimensions 23.3 x 25 cm
Weight 1006 g


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Jonathan Walford has held curatorial positions with several institutions, including the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, of which he was founding curator. He now runs his own company, Kickshaw Productions, which promotes the history of fashion through a variety of media and venues.