Kays continued to trade during the war, although they only issued one catalogue in 1940. Although clothes were rationed until 1949, Kays still produced a new range of clothes each season.
By 1940, the dropped waist of the early 1930s had been replaced by a nipped-in style that emphasised the slenderness of women’s waists and hips. Elasticated or rubberised corsetry was introduced which had a ‘reducing effect’ for ‘perfect figure control’.
Style icons named during this period include Deanna Durbin and Ginger Rogers. As war-time Utility fashions restricted the amount of fabric available for each outfit, hem lengths rose and designers relied on the ingenuity of their tailoring to create variety.
Women’s coats and hats included military detailing such as braiding or epaulettes, and the tailoring was otherwise increasingly masculine as puffed sleeves or padding broadened men’s and women’s shoulders alike.
Men’s trousers became narrower, again, in an attempt to decrease the amount of fabric used. The tailoring enhanced their masculinity; the single breasted, wide lapelled suits broadening their chests and creating an armoured impression.
Children’s clothing was made to last – a range in 1942 was called ‘sturdy clothes for active kiddies’. Simple frocks for girls were decorated with bright prints, whilst boys’ shorts and jerseys were made of hard-wearing materials like wool or flannel.
Click here for a poem about the fashions of the 1940s, created by Brendan Hawthorne and members of Worcestershire Association of Carers.
Film of a 1940s fashion show produced by Second Hand Rose for our Heritage Open Day event at the Commandery, Worcester, on 10 September 2011