Category Archives: 1940s

Mother of the Bride, 1947

The Mother of the Bride dress above, worn by Bessie McHugh, is a good example of post war fashion on the eve of the “New Look.” The skirt it is longer than the length fixed during World War Two, which … Continue reading

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How New was the “New Look”?

In many fashion histories, the “New Look” introduced by Christian Dior in 1948 is portrayed as nothing short of a revolution.  With his famous collection featuring soft shoulders, nipped waists, full skirts, and longer lengths, he singlehandedly ended prevailing World … Continue reading

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The Evolution of the Slacks Suit in Montgomery Ward Catalogs

What exactly is a “slacks suit”?  It isn’t quite what we mean by a pantsuit these days, a matching pair of pants and jacket with the versatility of a man’s suit. In the 1930s, when the term emerged as a … Continue reading

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Atomic Bomb Hat, 1946

What is more amazing, the cake or the hat?  This photo marks a celebration of atomic bomb tests on Bikini Atoll in November, 1946.  In a series of blasts on the tiny Marshall island, the US government aimed to investigate … Continue reading

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Claire McCardell’s Pop-Over in the Montgomery Ward Catalog

If any designer came to embody a streamlined, no fuss “American look” during World War Two, it was Claire McCardell.  She was famous for her innovative designs and inventive use of humble fabrics like gingham and denim. One of her … Continue reading

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On the Ferry, 1943

On a recent visit to relatives in the San Francisco Bay area, I went to the Oakland Museum’s exhibit, Dorothea Lange–The Politics of Seeing.  The museum is the depository of Lange’s archive, so it was a chance to see some … Continue reading

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Does this Hat Make my Head Look Big?

Staring in 1900, almost every Montgomery Ward catalog I paged through offered hats designed specifically for older women.  At first I noticed only the random hat, when words like “mature” or “elderly” caught my eye.  But by the 1910s catalogs … Continue reading

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Patterns of the Times

At the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s, the fashion editor of the New York Times, Virginia Pope, sponsored a series of patterns that were written up and advertised in the newspaper.  Published by the Advance Pattern Company, … Continue reading

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Kitchen Aprons in the War Effort

In my ongoing effort to show that not all female war workers during World War Two were young, I bring you these two photos from the Office of War Information.  The top photo shows two women sorting artillery shells in … Continue reading

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Mary Colter–Architect of the Southwest

You don’t have to spend much time at the south rim of the Grand Canyon to hear the name Mary Colter (1869-1958).  She designed Bright Angel Lodge, the Hopi House, and the Lookout Studio, which fits into the walls of … Continue reading

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