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War Fashions


As the summer of 1941 passed by, the United States was still not at war. That would come on December 8th, after Pearl Harbor. But even though the country was still at peace, war was looming. Canada announced that women could join the armed forces, although there was no plan to send them overseas. In London, Lord Beaverbrook stated his hope that the United States would join the war. California Senator Hiram Johnson feared that would be the case – saying President Roosevelt was determined to get the country involved in the shooting.

There were also signs that shortages would soon be a reality. The Office of Production Management announced that bicycle manufacturers had agreed to cut production and reduce the weight by ten percent, eliminating unnecessary metal decorations. Senator Nye of North Dakota demanded an investigation into reports of a gasoline shortage on the east coast, believing it was nothing short of a charade to increase support for the war.

Another sign of war-related change came in the form of a fashion show hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt that featured women’s work clothes. Designer Clarice Scott announced that she intended to produce fashions that were economical while introducing comfort and fashion into the factory and the farm. The “farmerette” could be fashion-conscious while driving a tractor, wearing a “smart field suit” made of cotton topped with a Chinese style hat. There were also practical styles designed for the “farmerette” who had to work outside in rainy weather. For the factory girl, Scott reworked a mechanic’s jumpsuit. The female version had a blouse with short sleeves and came with a matching cap.

But perhaps the most alarming fashion news came on this date in 1941 in the form of a headline that read, “Don’t Scream, Girls, But Cotton Hosiery Is Coming.” The silk supply was dwindling, with only enough for about two months. When that was gone, “it would be cotton, nylon, rayon, or nothing.” Government experts promised a product that would be so like silk that women would never know the difference. One of the experts stated that he hoped women would be patient as the new product was perfected, explaining that “We want to please the little cupcakes.”

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, 26 August, 1941

“Lord Beaverbrook Would ‘Like To See U.S. In War’”

“Milady’s New Fashions Keep Laborette In Mind”

“Canada Will Enlist Women”

“Johnson Says U.S. In ‘Hell Of A Situation’”

“Fancy Gadgets Will Go Off New Bicycles”

“Ask Proof Of Oil Shortage”

“Don’t Scream, Girls, But Cotton Hosiery Is Coming”