Women’s 1940s Victory Suits

“I think that the suit, for a long time, was trying to emulate a menswear staple when women were wearing it to work. It was about hiding your femininity. With so many strong women today embracing a more tailored, feminine pantsuit silhouette, I think it has emerged as a symbol of female empowerment and strength. In our case, the tailoring is always about celebrating femininity and a woman’s strength.”- designer Joseph Altuzarra.

One of the fashion innovations of the 1930s was women’s use of the pants suit, also known as the slacks suit. Like many of the popular fashions of the 1930s, the pants suit was associated with a Hollywood starlet.

Actress Marlene Dietrich (c. 1901–1992) wore men’s clothes in many of her movies, but she was especially known for wearing masculine suits in her public appearances. Women’s pants suits generally had flared or bell-bottomed trousers, and the jackets were tailored in slightly softer versions of men’s styles. Pants suits were considered a little outrageous during the 1930s and 1940s, for people were still adjusting to the idea of women wearing pants.

The most iconic look of war-time was the two-piece women’s 1940s suit. In the United States, it was patriotically called the victory suit. In Britain it was the utility suit. The suit was practical and versatile, worn as often as dresses. The jacket and skirt could be mixed with other pieces, and a different blouse underneath could change up the look. The overall style did not change throughout the war so that women wouldn’t have to keep up the expense of wearing the latest fashions.

The 1940s suit was popular for day-wear and office work-wear, and could even be dressed up with hats and jewelry for dinner or the theater.   The suit was often a woman’s nicest clothing item. Many women wore a suit as their wedding attire instead of an expensive dress. The look itself was carried over from women’s suits that popped up in the ’30s, but with some major differences to accommodate clothing restrictions.

The most commonly used fabric for women’s 1940s suits were wool-weight rayon, were in practical colors like black, grey, navy blue, green, brown and red. Plaids and checks were also very popular, as were pinstripes on black, navy or grey. Most suits came in a matching set although mixing solid and print jackets and skirts was common practice.

 

WOMEN’S 1940S SUIT JACKETS

Jackets were worn buttoned up all the way, with either a collared blouse or nothing at all underneath.  Lapels and collars gave them a masculine or tailored look. Some suit jackets were collarless but were worn with a collared blouse underneath with the collar and lapels worn over the jacket neckline.

Another popular option for the suit jacket was the bolero. It would be made from the same material as the skirt, just like the other jacket. However, the shape was somewhat different. The bolero jacket was waist-length or even a little bit shorter with long straight sleeves.

A third jacket alternative was the peplum jacket, which usually matched the skirt. It was fitted in the bodice and flared out from the waist and was wider at the bottom of the jacket. The peplum could be anywhere from a few inches long to finishing at the hip. It usually had long sleeves and buttoned down the front. A blouse was worn underneath this jacket as well.

Some lighter weight jackets came with a matching self fabric belt in the mid to late ’40s. The belt cinched in the waist slightly giving the look a softer drape. At this point, the suit was merging back into the two piece tunic dress style of the 1930s.

WOMEN’S 1940S SUIT SKIRTS

Skirts were more restricted by L-85 than jackets. They could have no more than a 78 inch sweep (although for suit skirts it was generally much less than that), could not be lined, could not have belts or  belt loops, and could not have pleats, tucks, shirring or gathers at the waist. This made for a straight, fitted skirt (but not tight by today’s standards – it would be more of an a-line shape, not a pencil skirt).

A woman’s suits were her uniform during the 1940s. Even after the war ended, the suit remained the most practical and durable piece of clothing a woman owned. Its versatility to mix and match with blouses and skirts rendered it a necessity for all women. It was both her everyday look and her ‘nice’ clothing when mixed with a fancy hat, gloves and heels.  The suit was to continue into the 1950s and beyond, as the preferred work or business look.  We have the dutiful women of the 1940s to thank for its beginnings.

With “women power” in the air, it was no surprise that power dressing and chic workwear were key trends on the Milan and Paris Fall 2019 runway. While many of the designers who embraced this trend were women, there were a few ‘woke’ men that embraced the movement as well. Namely…Karl Lagerfeld. Although Milan kicked off with the tragic news that Karl Lagerfeld has passed away on February 19th, his legacy lived on in his last collection for Fendi. And you just got the sense that, as always, Karl got the memo – Women Rule.

Runway Inspiration of Victory Suits

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Back in time ‘Victorian ERA’

Enjoy Victorian song while reading

Wile doing my research for LCS course – Fashion Styling Advanced Diploma of History I discover my aesthetic style which I’m absolutely fascinated about it. I found it very interesting, it brings me to fascination for the old. 

Let me tell you briefly about Victorian Era, and let’s go together back in time.

The Victorian era is named after Queen Victoria she became Queen of England in 1837 ( 18 years old) Victoria ruled until she died in 1901, after 64 years as queen.

When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, the world looked to the young royal for far more than a political standpoint and a line of succession. At 18 years old, Victoria represented a new era for regal fashion and inspired everyone from the court to the common woman.

Visiting the  museum Kensington Palace in London, I explored the Princess Victoria ’s journey to the throne, in the rooms where she grew up. From her unlikely birth in a converted dining room to the bitter feuds that plagued her adolescence, journey through the formative years of one of Britain’s most significant monarchs.

The Victorian era there was strict social norms they dictated based on your race, gender and class what place you have in society and what you could and could not do.

  Upper Class – Extremely wealthy, aristocratic family

                 Middle Class – Professionals, financially secure 

                 Working Class – Labourers working to survive

It is truly the Victorian era that brought about consumerism as we know it today. Trendy clothing wasn’t purely accessible to the bourgeoisie anymore, but thanks to the birth of the fashion magazine, fashion advertising and the industrial revolution – clothes were being made faster and cheaper – the common people were allowed to play the fashion game, wearing a different outfit for every purpose.

Victorian Fahion

Evolution of dress

Designed to slim the waist and give the illusion of a bigger bust and curvier hips, the corset was a Victorian style staple. Originally known as a stay, the bodices of the early 1800s were stiffened with steel boning for evening and everyday wear, highlighting the sensual shape of a woman’s body even under layers of lace and long-sleeved dresses.

Nearly 200 years later, the corset has shifted shape somewhat, but is still a mainstay in modern fashion. Take Madonna’s iconic Jean Paul Gaultier conical corset in 1990, Vivienne Westwood’s Rococo painted corsets from the same year and Alexander McQueen’s continued exploration of a restricted bodice in metal, leather and lace.

At a time when most brides were married in coloured dresses, Queen Victoria’s choice of a white silk satin gown wasn’t meant to change wedding trends for centuries to come.

Ever since, white wedding gowns have become an iconic style for brides from every background, royal or otherwise. Take Kate Middleton in custom Alexander McQueen for her wedding to Prince William, or Gwen Stefani’s twist on the trend with her pink-dipped wedding dress from 2002.

VICTORIAN HAIR STYLE 1859-1869

Queen Victoria had a passion for jewellery, teaming diamond crowns and sapphire brooches with personal pieces collected throughout her reign. 

Victorian-inspired jewellery has been seen on the catwalk in supersized proportions. Ricardo Tisci’s SS12 couture collection for Givenchy adorned models with crystal-encrusted septum rings and collarbone-skimming earrings, revisiting these styles in jet for AW15, while Dolce & Gabbana are known for their religious iconography and gem-encrusted jewellery.

Models in Victorian Era (19th Century)

Toward the end of the era (about the 1890s) women’s fashions became simpler and less extravagant and bustles fell out of fashion. The new, looser dresses gave way to a more flowing look. Corsets were still worn, but became slightly longer to provide the slimmer shape that was coming into fashion.

It taught women around the world to dress with elegance. The industrial revolution during this period brought with it a major revolution to the way clothes were made. They resembled what is today known as haute couture and became a symbol of the wearer’s social status.

Down bellow I post some designers that they get inspired from Victorian Era.

The Victorian shirt has shown up on the catwalk in a variety of styles: Temperley London showed both high-necked pieces with ruffles and lace-up details, while Emilia Wickstead focused on voluminous sleeves, luxe textures and gothic fabrics for AW17.

The Victorian era is proof that women found themselves enslaved by fashion. 

I like the Victorian era ‘ cause it was a very dynamic time, and also it was a time characterised by optimism


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DAVID DOWNTON

Visiting the Fashion Illustration Gallery was quite impressing and I’m  glad that I had this opportunity seeing the big Illustrator’s work was fascinating as I’m an  artist as well and  I’m drawing mostly females portraits, I found  the connection with the illustrator David Downton as his focusing more on the beauty faces the expression on his drawings are mostly sketches in black and white with a soft colour touch!  

The impact that they have in the media is quite big his establish a reputation as one of the world’s leading fashion artist. His classically elegant, yet highly contemporary images have been a key factor in the revival of interest in the tradition of fashion illustration.

David Downton has been featured in V Magazine, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Times, The New York Times, Vanity Fair. David’s commercial client are Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co, Topshop, Harrods, Estee Lauder and V&A Museum.

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