Among old belt-buckles, wooden furniture, yard appliances and music records, I found gold at a yard sale: a copy of Life Magazine from Sept. 15, 1947. It’s brimming with history, a time capsule of what life was like almost 71 years ago. So begins “Life in 1947,” a series discussing the fascinating differences between our world now and the world we left behind. This week we’re talking about beauty and fashion trends.
Skirt suits seem to have been incredibly popular as everyday wear for women. Hemlines fell below the knees, colors tended to be neutral and the fabric was heavy-weight. Men typically wore slacks with button-up shirts or polos. Formal attire for men was neutral tan or black suits.
While pumps were popular for everyday wear, more fashionable shoes had short heels and were open toed. Men’s shoes were similar to today’s dress shoes, made of leather in brown or black coloring.
One of the best parts of the fashion featured in this magazine is the hats. The hats are often wide-brimmed, with decorations of ribbons or feathers on more expensive, fancier hats.
Undergarments for women focused on giving breasts a pointed and perky form. Slips were popular to provide coverage underneath dresses.
Makeup was meant to enhance natural beauty and was minimal. Women used light powder foundation and applied blush to the apples of their cheeks. Eyebrows were thin and arching. Lipstick was pink or red, and lips were drawn small and pursed. Eyeliner was minimal if any was used at all, and black mascara was used to emphasize the lashes.
Men wore their hair slicked back with no flyaways. Women wore their hair short, and fashion dictated that it was no longer than an inch or two below the shoulders. The edges were smoothed back away from the face, and the ends were curled slightly.
I’ve always been interested in fashion, and looking through the styles in this copy of Life Magazine has been one of my favorite parts of this series. As someone who is particularly interested in makeup and makeup trends, it was fascinating to see the contrast between the older, subtle makeup and the more dramatic makeup of today.
Looking at the women’s clothing from 1947 also gave me an appreciation of the expanded variety of clothing that women can wear now. In 1947, we could not wear short shorts, belly shirts or even pants. I, like many people, use clothing as a means of expression and I’m thrilled that I have that freedom — a freedom women in the ’40s couldn’t enjoy.