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Britain Since the 1930s

by Mandy Barrow
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Fashion from 1930s

The war had much effect on fashion as clothes were in short supply and rationed. The government encouraged people to 'Make do and mend'. Older clothes were transformed into modern styles.


1944Mother with children

Many women wore short skirts and sensible 'flat heeled' shoes. It was very unusual to see women wearing trousers.

War time best clothes

In 1940 various brands of leg make-up appeared on the market because of the short supply of stockings. Women drew seams with eyebrow pencil down the back of each leg to give the appearance of wearing stockings.

War time fashionChildrenAn evacuee

Land Girls

In March 1941 Ernest Bevin, Minister for Labour called on the women of Britain to help the war effort. Women stopped wearing fancy clothes and started wearing trousers or dungarees instead. They often wore a scarf which was tied around the head to protect against the risk of hair getting caught in the machines.

Land girlsLand girl with horse

Horse and cart

See photographs taken during the war

Until the 1950s, young people tended to dress in similar ways to their parents and listen to similar music.

Beehive hairstyleIn the early 1950s girls wore their hair in high ponytails but as the years passed, they developed new hairstyles. Girls would spend hours arranging their hair. They built huge 'beehives' by backcombing their hair and piling it up on top. Each night they went to bed in rollers to make their hair full. They also used a lot of hairspray to keep their hair in place.

The 1950s also saw denim jeans worn for fashion the first time. Before they had been purely 'work' trousers for dirty jobs!

Boys started wearing more colourful clothes and some became 'teddy boys'. They wore long, often brightly coloured jackets with thin velvet lapels. Trousers were tight 'drainpipes' which were straight all the way down. Shoes were thick rubber soles. Boys greased their hair with tubs of Brylcream and pulled a big floppy fringe forward in a quiff. They wore thin bootlace ties and luminous socks.

Further information

Fashion during the War times - Uniforms for women

Fashion Through The Decades
A brief look at the fashions of the twentieth century from the 1920's - 1990's

pictures and photographs of fashion from 1920-1990

Rationing of Clothes

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