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  • Writer's pictureLonda

WW2: Rules, Wedges & Drawn Hosiery Seams & More – Part 3

Continuing with this very interesting look at the effect of WW2 on fashion and life, enjoy Part 3.

Italic  text indicates taken from Meghann Mason in her thesis which can be read in completion HERE.

Here in the USA…during WW2…..

United States: In December 1941 the United States officially entered WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fashion design came to a halt. “President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the War Production Board (hereafter referred to as WPB), whose purpose…was to regulate the production and allocation of materials and fuel’ (Board) to change the nation’s economy to better suit the war” . The U.S., having maintained a relative distance from WWI until the end of the war, was not as versed in war-time fashion changes as Britain. Maintaining beauty and allure were major war-time challenges faced by designers. American VOGUE magazine’s first cover for January after the U.S. entry into the war spoke of the new life American women would have to face and how to look gorgeous while doing it.


Skirts, Skirt Suits and Play Suits: Hem circumference reduced from 81 inches to 78 inches for a misses size 16 made in non-wool fabrics or in wool fabrics of a 9 ounce weight or less.

-No culottes, reversible skirts, lined skirts, quilted skirts or skating skirts. -No waistband over 3 inches wide. -Dresses: -No more than 2 buttons and 2 buttonholes for each cuff.

– No quilting using more than 300 square inches.

-Evening Dresses: Sweep of taffeta, flat satin, and dresses of similar materials remains at 144 inches.

Civilians were limited to only 3 pairs of leather footwear per year.  Shoes were rationed because an uncontrolled demand would have been much greater than the supply which had greatly decreased, because of leather and manpower shortages as well as military demand.

“The shoe rationing program was a universal and systematic coupon program. By the use of stamps having no termination date, every individual was given the right to purchase a pair of shoes with each valid shoe stamp contained in his Ration Book

Shoe stamps were validated periodically. War ration shoe stamps were transferable between members of a family living together in the same household” (Kolkman). However, companies like Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered shoes for other rationing coupons. People could detach War Ration Stamp No. 17 from their War Ration Book No. 1 (sugar and coffee book) and pin it to their order.

Enter…the WEDGE Shoe Style

Other companies such as Lane Bryant ran advertisements for “Non-Rationed Shoes” which were shoes made of non-leather and were also of the wedge style or a combination of the two. Lane Bryant was a company offering practicality with a pleasant aesthetic. Alice Joyce Lee, who was 14 in 1942, recalled in my interview, that in Mobile, Alabama they were allowed 2 pairs of shoes per year. She had one pair for school and church and one for “bumping about” or play.

I personally remember during growing up (1950’s) that my parents always provided TWO pairs of shoes to us kids:  1 for school/play and the other kept for Sunday Best.  When the school shoes wore out, the Sunday ones (hopefully) took over for everyday and a new pair for Sunday were purchased.

The Wedge shoe is another article of clothing that came into immense popularity during WWII due to rationing. Originally created by Salvatore Ferragamo in 1935, it used cork for the soles of the shoes instead of leather. This was extremely useful during wartime; the wedges that were created had wooden or cork soles and had fabric or a natural fiber such as hemp to make up the upper part of the shoe.