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PHOTO ESSAY MAKEOVERS - Beautiful Women of the 1940s


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Definitely one of the most glamorous eras for women was the 1940s. The clothing styles were both tailored and romantic. Satin and silk lounge wear became a fashion in the evening, while suits and dresses were worn during the day. More and more women were entering the work force, some working in factories making supplies for World War II, while others had office-type jobs. Hats were a common sight, many displaying a thin netting covering part of the face. A crocheted net called a “snood” was often worn in the back of the head containing long tresses.

I interviewed my mother, Jean McKee Allen, since she was in her early 20s during this time. She told me that women would go to the department store called Woolworths to purchase all their beauty needs. One of the most important hair accessories was a long stuffing type material that you could buy by the yard. You placed it in your hair and rolled your hair over it to give volume and width to your style. They didn’t have hair spray or many styling aids so the hair was quite soft in appearance. The hair was set in flat pin curls with metal bobbie pins and either dried with a hand held dryer or left all day or night to dry on it’s own. Women usually washed their hair once a week and hardly anyone had a shower in their home, only bathtubs. You would wash your hair in the kitchen sink. Unlike today, there were only a handful of shampoo companies to choose from. A lot of women just used Ivory Soap.

Permanent waves were popular and took all day. The cold wave was not yet invented. Women would spend all day in the beauty salon with their hair wound around rods that were plugged into an electric machine. Their hair would often get too hot and break off. The cost of a perm was around $2.98. A haircut was 50 cents!

Prior to 1950, only 7% of women dyed their hair. Beauty salons often had a private room for women to sit in while their hair was being colored. Today the percent of women coloring their hair is well over 80%.


My mother and her friends use to copy the hairstyles of the models in the Sears and Roebuck catalog. They would always turn to the corset models since they didn’t sport a hat and the hairstyles were visible.

Movie stars were the trendsetters of fashion. Modern Screen Magazine was a favorite to read about the stars and see the latest trends. Movie legends such as Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Loretta Young, and Rita Hayworth were favorites.

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Betty Grable


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Lili St. Cry



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Betty Field

My model below is Victoria. She is a hairstylist, wife, mother, and last but not least, a belly dancer. I knew that because of this, she probably had enough “ham” in her to pose as a 40s diva.

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My model Victoria, at a typical day at work.

Victoria’s hair was set in hot rollers for about fifteen minutes. Since Woolworths is not around and even if it was, I am sure they do not carry stuffing. I used synthetic hair wefts for fillers. She did her own makeup which was beautiful, and added false eyelashes for drama.

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Victoria touches up her makeup
while waiting for the hot rollers to cool.


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After an hour it is all starting to take shape.

We both had a collection of 1940s clothes and hats and we played dress up for the better part of the morning. The outcome is truly wonderful.


The women of the 40s paved the way for the women of today!


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Hair and Photos by Kathie Rothkop
Makeup by Victoria




Bridal Styles Made Simple


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