Millennium: 2nd millennium

The 1940s also knows as the "Nineteen Forties" abbreviated the "Forties" or "40s" was the decade that began on Monday, January 1, 1940 and ended on Saturday, December 31, 1949. It was the fifth decade in the 20th century.

Events and trends[]

File:WW2 For Wikipedia Article.jpg

World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrination, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons such as the atomic bomb. From top going counterclockwise: Allied landing on D-Day 1944, German soldiers marching, the Nagasaki atom bomb 1945, the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in Berlin 1945 and the Gate of Auschwitz.

The 1940s were seen as a transition period between the radical 1930s and the conservative 1950s, which also leads the period to be divided in two halves:

The first half of the decade was dominated by World War II, the widest and most destructive armed conflict in human history. So consequential was this event and its brutal aftermath that it laid the foundation for other major world events and trends for decades to follow. This war was also the first modern civilian war.

The second half marked the beginning of the East-West conflict and the Cold War, together with major social upheaval caused by the destruction of the war, the large number of refugees, and soldiers returning home and demanding government recognition for their sacrifice, especially in colonies of European countries, many of which gained independence.

Josip Broz Tito, then president of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia publicly speaks out against Soviet leader Stalin and Soviet imperialism, the only president to do so.


The first nuclear weapon is built and tested in 1945.

War, peace and politics[]



There were many changes in film when it came to the 1940s. More women showed up in films, and better storylines and plots began to show up. This also lead into more women turning their interests toward fashion, or at least the women who could afford it. People who had exceptional riches often showed up in films, because they were the ones who actually watched them most regularly. Thus, people who were not rich viewed the films as an amazing treat.



Many fashion houses closed during occupation of Paris during World War II, including the Maison Vionnet and the Maison Chanel. Several designers, including Mainbocher, permanently relocated to New York. In the enormous moral and intellectual re-education program undertaken by the French state couture was not spared. In contrast to the stylish, liberated Parisienne, the Vichy regime promoted the model of the wife and mother, the robust, athletic young woman, a figure who was much more in line with the new political criteria. Germany, meanwhile, was taking possession of over half of what France produced, including high fashion, and was also considering relocating French haute couture to the cities of Berlin and Vienna, neither of which had any significant tradition of fashion. The archives of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture were seized, most consequentially the client list. The point of all this was to break up a monopoly that supposedly threatened the dominance of the Third Reich.

Due to the difficult times, the number of models in shows was limited to seventy-five, evening wear was shortened and day wear was much skimpier, made using substitute materials whenever possible. From 1940 onward, no more than thirteen feet (four meters) of cloth was permitted to be used for a coat and a little over three feet (one meter) was all that allowed for a blouse. No belt could be over one and a half inches (four centimeters) wide. Despite this, haute couture tried to keep its flag flying. Humor and frivolity became a way of defying the occupying powers and couture somehow survived. Although some have argued that the reason it endured was because of the patronage of the wives of rich Nazis, in actuality, records reveal that, aside from the usual wealthy Parisiennes, it was the wives of foreign ambassadors, clients from the black market, and a whole eclectic mix of people who carried on to frequent the salons, among whom German women were but a minority.

In spite of the fact that so many fashion houses closed down or moved away during the war, several new houses remained open, including Jacques Fath, Maggy Rouff, Marcel Rochas, Jeanne Lafaurie, Nina Ricci, and Madeleine Vramant. During the Occupation, the only true way for a woman to flaunt her extravagance and add to color to a drab outfit was to wear a hat. In this period, hats were often made of scraps of material that would have otherwise been thrown away, sometimes incorporating butter muslin, bits of paper, and wood shavings. Among the most innovative milliners of the time were Pauline Adam, Simone Naudet, Rose Valois, and Le Monnier.

Paris's isolated situation in the 1940s enabled the Americans to exploit the ingenuity and creativity of their own designers. During the Second World War, Vera Maxwell presented co-ordinates in plain, simply cut outfits and also introduced innovations to men's work clothes. Bonnie Cashin transformed boots into a major fashion accessory, and, in 1944, started to produce original and imaginative sportswear. Claire McCardell, Anne Klein, and Tina Leser formed a remarkable trio of women who were to lay the foundations of American sportswear, ensuring that ready-to-wear was not simply thought of as second best, but as an elegant and comfortable way for modern women to dress.

Among young men in the War Years the zoot suit (and in France the zazou suit) became popular. Many actresses of the time, including Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, and Marlene Dietrich, had a significant impact on popular fashion.

The couturier Christian Dior created a tidal wave with his first collection in February 1947. The collection contained dresses with tiny waists, majestic busts, and full skirts swelling out beneath small bodices, in a manner very similar to the style of the Belle Époque. The extravagant use of fabric and the feminine elegance of the designs appealed greatly to a post-war clientèle and ensured Dior's meteoric rise to fame. The sheer sophistication of the style incited the all-powerful editor of the American Harper's Bazaar, Carmel Snow, to exclaim 'This is a new look !'.


-Orson Welles


Sports figures[]



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