Working Lives

Maria Davis 1940s to 50s (part 3)

Maria Davis started work as a sales assistant at John Lewis in 1948.

The 'New Look' for Women

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Autumn fashion show 1950
Autumn fashion show 1950

Clothing had been strictly controlled during World War II (1939-1945); materials were in short supply and many workers from the fashion industry went to work in war-related industries. Clothes were designed to be hard-wearing and practical, and were mostly styled into short, boxy shapes.

After the war, in 1947, the famous French designer Christian Dior launched a dramatic change of fashion known as the ‘New Look’ – tightly fitting corseted bodices and long, full skirts, often worn with narrow, high heels.

Peter Jones fashion (1957)
Peter Jones fashion (1957)

Evening wear in the 1940s and 1950s was often worn with long, skin-tight gloves. Glove stretchers made of ivory were often necessary to help squeeze fingers into gloves. Ankle-strap shoes were very fashionable, but for work, wedge-sole shoes, often with soles made of cork or wood, were much more practical. Seamed stockings were made of nylon, a synthetic (man-made) material introduced during the war. It was sheer, hard-wearing, and much cheaper than silk.

The first nylon stockings went on sale in America in May 1940 and sold out in four days. Nylon, and other synthetic materials like rayon and acrylic, transformed the textile industry, and clothes manufacturing.



 

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