Wartime austerity led to restrictions on purchasing clothes and the amount of fabric used. Women wore narrow skirts at or near knee-length, with simply-cut blouses or shirts and square-shouldered jackets with peplums, often remaking men’s suits into smart outfits. Quirky hats with veils and fur stoles were also popular accessories. Women working as land girls and on war service adopted trousers as a practical necessity, tucking their hair up into scarves or caps.
Austerity also affected men’s civilian clothes during the war years. The British “Utility Suit” jackets were shorter, trousers were narrower, and double-breasted suits were made without waistcoats. The range of colours available also became more subdued. Men who were not in uniform often continued to wear the pre-war suits they already owned. The most common hat of this period was the fedora, often worn tipped down over one eye at a rakish angle and the ‘homburg’ as worn by Winston Churchill. Neckties were wide, and bold geometric designs were popular, including stripes, and quadrilateral designs.
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