Fun Ladies’ Hairstyles of the 1940s

They curled their hair diligently every week.

Each decade has its own look, a particular set of styles that defines the era and this is especially true with hair. In times past many people couldn’t afford to buy or make new clothes on a whim and so many clothing styles changed slowly. But, hair was something that mainly took effort and so could be adapted to look fresh and new. The 1940s was an interesting decade for ladies’ hairstyles because the lack of resources when it came to fashion were channeled directly in hair- the higher and curlier the better!

1942 woman at her dressing table
Woman styling her hair at her dressing table, 1942. Via: Marjory Collins/Library of Congress

In the 1930s a poplar hairstyle had been a short cut, curled close to the head in a circle at the ends. The top part was sometimes put into finger waves and despite the setting and the curlers, many hairstyles of the 1930s lacked volume. The early 1940s hairdos were a lot like the previous decade, with just a bit more length and volume to signal a change in fashion to a more fun and relaxed attitude.

Rags, pins, or clips were used to curl the hair usually once a week and a setting lotion helped to keep the curl in the hair. Different setting patterns resulted in different looks, meaning the difference between a tight curl and a loose one or a round shape versus a more natural shape.

1940 HS girls on sidewalk
High school girls in 1940 wearing short styles, with a bit of volume and lots of curl. Via: John Vachon/Library of Congress

After the US joined World War II many women’s styles became more dramatic. The huge bumper bang was one of many larger-than-life styles that women wore at the time.

1942 fashion show model with big hair
Via: Arthur S. Siegel/Library of Congress

These dramatic bangs could be worn with the rest of the hair up or down.

Vivien Garry with large bumper bangs
Via: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

When women stared filling the factories the daily hairdo for many was switched to something more practical, a scarf or bandana covering all but the bangs, which were curled or pinned into shape. This was for safety, but still gave a feminine look.

1943 female factory worker color photograph
Via: Howard R. Hollum/Library of Congress

Another option for women was to wear a snood. This could be made of fabric or net, but it let the hair fall down further than a scarf could. Many women chose to wear snoods with more elaborate bangs as it was a more dramatic way to keep your hair up.

1942 female factory worker at lunch wearing white snood
Via: Alfred T. Palmer/Library of Congress

Many poodle type hairstyles were popular in the 1940s as well. In the photos below there’s curled volume at both the top and the at the back.

1940s mother doing her daughter's hair
Via: Arthur Rothstein/Library of Congress

The poodle bang got even bigger and was popular well into the 1950s as seen on Lucille Ball.

1947 poodle bangs on singer Josephine Premice
Poodle bangs on singer Josephine Premice, 1947. Via: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

1940s hairdos also used many different types of rolled hairstyles, including victory rolls, which were worn in support of the Allies victory. The two rolls in front made a v shape. Some women also rolled their hair in the back to make a v shape there, too.

Anne Gwynne victory toll hairstyle
Via: Wiki Commons

We hope you enjoyed this look at some of the amazing hairstyles of the 1940s. If you want to see more historical hairdos you can find hairstyles of the past 200 years right here.

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