It’s unfortunately hard to discuss the 1940s without mentioning the Second World War. Running from 1939 to 1945, the consequences of the war lingered well into the second half of the decade. Despite of this, the Forties still produced some fantastic film, music and fashion that remain influential today.
From the era of the musical and Marlene Dietrich to the decade of World War II, the next piece in our Throwback Thursday series focuses on the unforgettable 1940s.
From Edge of Darkness to Casablanca, many Hollywood films throughout the 1940s incorporated elements of the World War into their stories whether it was part of the main plot or not. Film Noir was another popular film genre during the Forties, known for its use of dark images incorporated with crime dramas. Films such as The Big Sleep and The Maltese Fiction are considered classics which helped launch the Film Noir genre.
It’s a Wonderful Life and Meet Me in St. Louis are other iconic films that came out of the 1940s, as well as several Disney classics such as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Fantasia.
Music, literature and the arts
During the 1940s, the most popular music style was swing which reigned throughout World War II. By the latter part of the decade however, crooners such as Frank Sinatra became extremely prominent, alongside genres such as bebop and early traces of rock and roll.
1949 was a big year in literature with both Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four being released. Abstract Expressionism was a popular movement in the art world, emphasising form and colour within a non-representational framework.
Despite the challenges forced on by the World War, including shortages of materials such as wool, leather and nylon, the fashion industry continued to produce what it could. The concept of function seemed to overtake fashion, particularly in the final months of the war and military influences could even be seen in what people were wearing with patriotic nautical themes, dark greens and khakis dominating the colour palettes.
From dresses and silk dressing gowns to sleeveless sweaters and cardigans, the padded or puffed shoulder was the dominant look for women in the 1940s. First made popular in the mid to late 30s by designer Elsa Schiaparelli and actress Joan Crawford, this style of garment reached its height of popularity throughout the Forties. Skirts during the decade were knee-length, flared or straight and had single pleats. Popular shoes were Oxfords, pumps and sandals.
Seeing as most men were at war during the first half of the 1940s, the ones who stayed home mostly wanted to look as stark and understated as possible. Suits lost their vests, pocket flaps and trouser cuffs, while non-formal attire remained practical and sturdy over stylish. High-cut trousers led to ties being shorter and wider and were held in place by clips. Suspenders became popular as the leather that would make belts was so immensely rationed. Footwear picked up where the 20s and 30s left off with wingtip and spectator shoes being popular choices.