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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > September 2019 > Fashion on the Home Front

Fashion on the Home Front

Eighty years ago families watched and waited as tensions mounted in Europe, yet when Britain declared war in September 1939 few were prepared for the ensuing overwhelming disruption to civilian life. Here Jayne Shrimpton considers pre-war fashion and how the conflict affected dress

Female fashions of the late- 1930s were already evolving along lines that would become more pronounced during the war. Daytime garments, previously soft and fluid, were gaining a trim, sleeker look as skirts and frocks narrowed, hemlines rose from flowing calflength to just below the knee, while blouses and bodices developed padded shoulders and crisp collars or ruched details, sculpting fabric to the body. Fashionable formal daywear comprised either a fitted coat layered over a stylish afternoon dress or a tailored jacket and skirt suit teamed with a smart blouse – outfits accessorised with a chic asymmetrical hat, highheeled shoes, gloves and coordinating bag. Costly sable, mink, fox or Persian lamb fur jackets, collars and stoles were must-have accessories for ladies of means, while romantic floor-length evening wear expressed movie-star glamour or refined English elegance.

Ordinary women could not attain the Hollywood ideals of beauty, but feminine hairdressing and ingenious use of make-up would become increasingly important during the war

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About Family Tree

It’s time to dig for victory, see what clues your delving can unearth! Turn the clock back to 1939 with our special issue and discover your family’s story. This month we’re commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War 2, and are researching and celebrating our ancestors’ lives from the time. To help you trace your family tree we’ve got: a packed guide to the essential family history records all you need to know about researching family in Second World War and first half of the 20th century and a bumper crop of tips to help you create your own family history home archive – filled with carefully stored photos, stories, notes and treasures. Beginner or expert, there’s plenty to discover and do as your learn more about your family’s story. Enjoy!