Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wartime Hair Styles

World War II meant families sacrificed everything, including the ultimate sacrifice. My mother, the eighth of eighteen kids (yes, they are all borne of the same parents), lost her oldest brother in the war. Both of my parents remember rationing, blackouts, and Rosie the Riveter.

Rationing was widespread during the war. If you read magazines of the day, they talk about rationing of sugar, difficulties finding Jello in the stores, and more. During the war, even fabric was rationed, meaning that if you look at styles of the era, they are generally free of cuffs, wide hems, and other forms of frippery. Fabric rationing helped to open the door for Christian Dior in the late 40s, but the road to the New Look was free of frills.

Women, looking for new ways to embellish themselves whilst still staying within rationing, went to great lengths with their hair styling. Hair can generally be styled with supplies that they likely had before the war, with only the hairstyles themselves being changed. I suppose that when the men were away at war, women had more time on their hands to practice a new look. And once the hair was done, what better way to finish it off than with some ribbon? Since hats were nonexistent (again, rationing), a bit of leftover ribbon could become a date night look.

I used to spend Saturday evenings playing with my curling iron, trying to get Farrah's look. When I was in college in the early 80s, my hair stylist practically begged me to be a hair model, because I had wonderful wavy hair that would do virtually anything. I remember wearing hair combs -- what a pretty look they make! And while I was never one for bows in my hair (it's been worn too short for too many years now), I liked to play with ponytails, curls and braids. I do like these looks, especially the ribbon at the nape of the neck (below). Personally, I would match it with the pompadour (right), pull the back of the hair into a pony, then add the ribbon, but you decide.

from Good Housekeeping, 1943.


  1. What a beautiful post. I have always loved ribbons and bows. They just add a sweet finishing touch. My mother didn't like bows in my hair or on dresses. She didn't stop me from buying and making grosgrain hair bows that I attached, by sewing,to long and narrow hair clips. This was in the 70's and I had very long hair. I loved the glimpse of color and fullness that peeked out from the sides of my head. History repeats,as it was a cheap and creative way for a girl with babysitting money to create a different and pretty look. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

  2. Very interesting post, I always say I like a lot the 40's fashion, but poor people living in the middle of the war, I just see the glamour , the hairs do and all the forniture and so on, BUT it might be very very hard to live in that time.