History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: Cold War

Fashion click here for audio

movie still of man and woman looking angrily across the table at each other World War II brought about restrictions on fabric, which was needed for blankets, bandages and uniforms. The result of this and the emphasis on military action was broad-shouldered suits for women and men alike.


With the end of the war, fabric was more plentiful and many people wished to go "back to normal". Although post-war depression dampened sales, the Marshall Plan (1947) helped Europe recover economically. Paris designer Christian Dior developed the New Look, which was opulent and feminine.

The New Look was a relief from war-time rationing. Lipstick, mascara and eyeliner no longer meant a "loose" woman. Skirts were full, and waists were pinched in an emphasis of the hour-glass figure. Silk stockings and high heels completed the image.

movie poster: Murder My Sweet, with couple embracing

Men wore hats in public.

Men's fashion wasn't limited to business suits. Casual shirts (Hawaiian especially) made a debut during the 1940s.

The New Look, with hourglass silhouette

During the 1950s in the U.S., movie stars like James Dean popularized a new young look: jeans, t-shirt, and jacket.

It was during this time that young people began to take the lead in fashion.

James Dean in leather jacket with cigarette
Jackie Kennedy looking lovely in peach sleeveless dress and pearls, on boat
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

By the early 1960s, the dresses were slimmer, shorter, and less ornate. To be fashionable was to be dressed simply, but elegantly and expensively. Women used hair spray to keep the rounded styles in place.


The Beatles with mop-top hair

The Beatles "mop top" look was considered radical, but became a trend in male hair by the mid-60s. Hair for men and women would become longer and more natural after that.

Kids with absurdly small car, one guy on each side and three women standing up in the seat Before 1965, dress was pretty conservative, and particularly casual for young people.

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