Turban Style, early 1940s

Turbans became stylish in the mid 1930s, but they really came into their own during World War Two.  I puzzled for a while about when to date this photo, but the wide, structured shoulders made me decide for the forties.

Turbans were popular in part because they were easy to make yourself.  There were many patterns available to sew, knit, and crochet your own version.  Some are little more than a slightly structured piece of cloth to tie around the head, ending with a knot on top.  This one is different in that it has a square shape, echoing the line of her shoulders.  Do you think it looks elegant, or does the nubby texture remind you too much of a towel?  I am in the second camp.

Despite a serious hunt, I couldn’t find similar sleeves in any of my fashion history resources.   What would you call this style? A cap sleeve? A winged cap? However, the structure of the dress has elements in common with this 1942 pattern above, including the deep v neckline and the tucks in the bodice.  So my guess is that this smiling woman was photographed in the early years of World War Two.  What say you?

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4 Responses to Turban Style, early 1940s

  1. Judith Rickard says:

    Lovely photo! I’ve noticed that current designs are returning to some shoulder emphasis, though not as extreme as 1980’s style. And I’m reading comments from millennials-and-younger “ugh! shoulder pads – never, never, never” that remind SO much of my feelings as a young sewer in the 60s and 70s when looking at my mom’s old [1940s] patterns. “Mom, how could you wear these clothes? Those ugly shoulder pads!”

    What goes around, comes around, right? What I’ve learned sewing for myself and others for years is that a defined shoulder shape, however it is achieved, improves the balance of a garment on 99% of all women.

    And I’d call that sleeve a “flutter sleeve”.

  2. Judith says:

    Lovely photo! I’ve noticed that current designs are returning to some shoulder emphasis, though not as extreme as 1980’s style. And I’m reading comments from millennials-and-younger “ugh! shoulder pads – never, never, never” that remind SO much of my feelings as a young sewer in the 60s and 70s when looking at my mom’s old [1940s] patterns. “Mom, how could you wear these clothes? Those ugly shoulder pads!”

    What goes around, comes around, right? What I’ve learned sewing for myself and others for years is that a defined shoulder shape, however it is achieved, improves the balance of a garment on 99% of all women.

    And I’d call that sleeve a “flutter sleeve”.

  3. JS says:

    I can’t get romantic about turbans. As a child in the ’60s, I associate them not with glamor but with covering dirty hair. Of course, washing and drying one’s hair was much more time-consuming back then. I guess turbans are preferable to curlers and scarves, but no women I knew looked like Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2R4I84QS5M

  4. JS says:

    I can’t get romantic about turbans. As a child in the ’60s, I associate them not with glamor but with covering dirty hair. Of course, washing and drying one’s hair was much more time-consuming back then. I guess turbans are preferable to curlers and scarves, but no women I knew looked like Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

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