What kind of clothes did people wear during World War 2?

In the UK

  • Men often wore suits (always polished shoes) and felt hats. Take a look at some old movies around the 40's. Trench coats were often worn as well. People took great pride in dressing up during these times.
  • Women wore nylons with seams down the back (and during WW2 when times were tough and women couldn't get nylons they would take their eyebrow pencil and draw a line down the back of each leg so it looked like they had nylons on.
  • Often women would wear a scarf tied in the front to keep their hair out of their faces. Women wore suits and hats and sun dresses were really in fashion at the time.
  • Ankle socks with thick heels high heels were worn.
  • Dresses got shorter (just mid-knee.) During the war effort women wore cover-alls when they worked at the factories (just like the men had in the past.) Hair styles were up-dos (hair pulled up at the back and curled on top) sometimes braids, other times their hair would be curled and left long.
  • Children usually wore cover-alls, T-shirts, and plain old running shoes or plain shoes with very hard toes on them. Good clothes were kept for Sunday church or for an outing.
  • You can look in books and old magazines for pictures to see what the clothes looked like. Except for stylistic differences they were essentially the same kind of clothes people wear today. Men wore suits and ties to dress up, jeans and work shirts otherwise. Women were much more likely to wear dresses rather than pants and skirts never came above the knees. Almost everybody wore hats.
  • Depending on the country you may be thinking of -- the occupied countries of Europe most people would only wear civilian clothes in current fashion. In Britain people in the workplace wore the protective overalls of their job when at work, but when the workday ended they came home to a meager meal before putting on a uniform to report for service in the war effort during the evening and sometimes overnight, such jobs as firefighter, home guard, observer corps (watching for invading aircraft), fire -- watching (to report fires started by enemy bombers, air-raid wardens, auxiliary police, nurses aide, many uniforms, then after a few hours sleep they would be back at their work station for another day. The civilian styles for ladies had exaggerated, padded shoulders to make them look broad shouldered. their hats favored the men's trilby style (this can be seen in the film "Casablanca" as worn by the heroine. Men were mostly in military uniform of their particular service.
  • In Britain many women in office jobs, and middle-class women more generally, adopted some features of 'industrial' styles, especially very short hair styles. (Again, look at movies and photos from the time). The idea was to show solidarity with women doing physically demanding factory work. For most of WW2 able-bodied childless women in Britain were subject to compulsory national service (conscription). For some, this involved nursing or school teaching, but for most it meant working in the armaments industries. A few really lucky women got fascinating jobs, but that was exceptional.
  • Women usually wore long plain skirts with usually white or pink type tops. Men and boys wore green or black trousers with shirts (white or green).

In the United States

  • People in America had clothing rationing. The above would take up a lot, too much, ration coupons, and people had hopes of not wasting material over being proper and dressed nice. Everything that was worn had to be practical, to last the longest duration of time and seasons (won't be grown out over time, and suitable for most/all/as many as possible seasons).
  • Most men were at war, so there isn't really much clothing on men. (Uniform most likely)
  • Some women did use eyebrow pencils to draw seams on their legs, but there was specially sold leg paint. Factory Workers (meaning women) often wore pants.
  • Children however, were often still dressed properly. Some things girls wore were bobby socks to save material, jumpers that had extra long and adjustable straps, and blouses (like they did before). There was also the dickey, a removable collar that made it seem like one was wearing a blouse.