How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

Today I continue with my tour through the 1940s. Women started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for gardening and other yard work, but women must have really loved the comfortable overalls, as I have quite a few vintage photos showing women wearing them for leisure.

By the 1940s shorts were being worn on casual occasions, but I’ve also seen photos and magazines ads of shorts being dressed up with the addition of a jacket.

Opps! I used the same hat twice!  Cotton became common in use for bathing suits in the 1940s. This one is a woven twill, but is lined in cotton jersey.  The palm tree cape is made from chenille, probably made at one of the many chenille businesses in North Georgia.

The matching shorts and tee shirt were made by Jantzen, and you can see the original sticker on the shirt.  Thinking about color is so interesting because if you look at many vintage garments you can start to see what colors were popular during different eras. My cute little hexagon shaped bag and the sandals are a perfect match to the green of the tee and shorts.

This golf dress has a label called “American Golfer”.  Women were increasingly turning to skirts, culottes, and even shorts for golfing, so American Golfer began advertising their dresses as good for streetwear.

During the last years of WWII, bathing suit makerCole of California began producing some of the barest bathing suits to date. One was a two-piece similar to this one, but the front of the pants were attached to the back using cord woven through eyelets. Cole ran ads with the suit juxtaposed with a paratrooper, as much of Cole’s production was in making parachutes. Was the assumption to be that they used parachute cord in the bathing suit?

This outfit symbolizes the lucky find. I was rummaging through a box of old damaged clothes at a flea market when I pulled out the playsuit. It ran through my mind that there was most likely a matching skirt originally. Sure enough, the skirt was at the bottom of the box. The sandals came from an old general store in West Asheville, NC. For years the elderly owner went to the store, in spite of the fact that no new merchandise had been added since the early 1970s, and there was stuff still dating from the 40s. There was a big box of shoes, all dumped together and a bit of digging produced this pair, at the original price of $6. I used to frequent the place until the owner became too ill to work. Some years later there was a water line break, the place flooded, and most of the remaining contents went to the dump.

To me, this is the perfect picnic dress. It was designed by Sophie Gimbel, the in-house designer at Saks Fifth Avenue. The shoes were brought back from the Far East by a soldier returning home after WWII.

I love this dress so much, and it has a local (Asheville, NC) label.  The red and white bits are applied flowers, each with a pearl button in the center. The handbag has a lucite Scottie dog clasp!

I am finishing up the 1940s with a truly lousy shot of a beautiful set from the estate of Mary Jane Hefner. Since this was most likely part of her college wardrobe I paired it with a football themed scarf, also from Jane’s estate. Jane had several slacks sets, all in immaculate condition. Was it because slacks on girls were not acceptable at her small town college (meaning the pants didn’t get a lot of wear), or was she just very careful with her clothes? It’s likely a combination of both.


Filed under Collecting

20 responses to “How I Collect – 1940s, Part 2

  1. Claritza

    What a fun post! Thank you for sharing your collection with us like this!


  2. Lynne

    Wonderful post! I really enjoy seeing your ensemble creations.


  3. So perfect! I love the stories about the clothes and your fabulous collecting skills.


  4. Kiki Smith

    These “exhibits” are so very fine!! I wish I had access to the sources you have developed, but you inspire me to keep looking. Best, Kiki SMith Theatre Department Smith College Smith College Historic Clothing Collection

    On Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 8:16 PM The Vintage Traveler wrote:

    > thevintagetraveler posted: ” Today I continue with my tour through the > 1940s. Woman started wearing overalls for outdoor work in the late 1930s, > but the garment really caught on during World War Two. They were great for > gardening and other yard work, but women must have really lo” >


  5. jacq staubs

    I feel like i am with you on a beautiful summer day in the 1940’s! What a fantastic /beautifully assembled informative post! Every outfit! The palm tree beach robe is such a statement. The FIT team really could have used you.This one goes into archive folder along with the rest.Love it!


  6. Lovely ensembles! That story about the flood at the store upsets me every time.


  7. Thank you, very interesting. Amazing that those outfits are in such good condition, so much just became dustrags! Your collection is, I think, an important one.
    bonnie in provence


  8. I learned so many things here! Like playsuit have matching skirts.
    I enjoyed reading the stories behind each garment.


  9. What lovely outfits. Reminds me of how I used to group my Barbie doll clothes together, but your collection is priceless! 😍


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