Story by Elli Woodman:
Did someone say scandal!? No just Melbournes Hemlines during the 40’s
During War time Melbournites knew rationing. Food, fabric and petrol; it was all insufficient for the demand that was there.
Everyone wore simple practical clothes during the war, hemlines were shorter, not just because the fabric was scarce, it was also because if you wore anything that was classed as “Too Luxurious.” You risked looking as though you were not doing your bit for the war effort and be scorned by other women.
These times called for action, ‘Make do and Mend!’ became most women’s mottos. For instance the women in the war time would wait for hubby’s suits, that had been sitting in the wardrobe, to become ‘time to replace’ items and make ‘new’ ladies suits by unpicking and remaking his suit for herself. She would even refashion old dresses with the latest fashion collar or pockets in a contrasting fabric to make it pop and turn it from shabby to chic!
You can get this book or similar online and are a great source of ingenious ways to make do and mend today! Being thrifty is again popular in our economic times.
In 1942, clothing rationing brought about actual regulations on women’s clothing! The UK had their ‘Utility Clothes’ regulations and the USA introduced Regulation L85 which set skirt lengths to 17 inches above the floor. Interestingly, the Evening Dress has stayed near to or at floor length over the decades. It is often said that hemlines were only of concern to the working class, as wealthy women could afford the luxury of longer dresses in their lifestyle.
It took some time for fashion to regenerate after the war, but as life gradually got better here was more food, more fashion, more riches… The beautiful designers started emerging with the likes of Dior in 1947 who brought long luxurious skirts, and beautiful dress such extravagant designs all using yards and yards of fabric… seen as POSITIVELY SCANDALOUS!
It was a revelation of beauty, luxury and extravagance post war, the likes that had never been seen before. Of course everyone likes keeping up with the Jones’ and all wanted a piece of this new life and Melbourne designers wanted to supply it.
Georges Department Store in Melbourne imported designer outfits to sell. Initially designs were copied from overseas and sold here but gradually our designers started developing fresh designs with their own style hot for the Melbourne market.
The women of the wartime truly did have smaller everything… waists, busts and feet, than we do today but they also had a secret weapon in their armoury that gave them those beautiful silhouettes. Which bring us to Foundation Garmentssuch as brassieres, girdles, step-ins, petticoats and waist cinches… To me I’m all for it!
Any minor discomfort is worth it to create the sculpted illusion of the perfect figure. I know everything is in its place and I feel beautiful, totally worth it for me!
It’s not about Weight Weight Weight Ladies, Its’s about Shape Shape Shape! – BUT, did you know that the perfect hourglass figure is where the waist is 10 inches smaller than the bust and hips for example 36 – 26 – 36. “Standardized Dress Sizing” as we know it didn’t come in until the 60’s, clothing had been sized XSSW, SSW, SW, W, XW & XOS up until then but in the 60’s the rag trade brought in size 10,12,14 etc. I’ll just share an interesting observation I’ve made from my wardrobe as I have clothing that spans all the decades. I have a 60’s dress that is a 16, I have a 40’s dress that is a 14, I have a 50’s dress that is a 12, I was a size 10 in a dress in the 90’s and I’m a size 8 in the 00’ies.
Now go figure I have gone down a dress size every decade! So give it another couple of years and I’ll be a size 6! Ha ha! It just goes to show how clothing manufacturers play with our heads, appealing to our vanity and egos.