Costumes for Murder Mystery Games set in the 1940s

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What a deformed thief this fashion is.
— Borachio (Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing)

1940s Icons

Winston Churchill. Judy Garland. Bing Crosby. Billie Holliday. Rita Hayworth. Vera Lynn. Errol Flynn. James Cagney. Myrna Loy. Cab Calloway. Barbara Stanwyck. Noel Coward.

Materials are in short supply and everything must go further. Life is more about survival than celebration. The styles reflect this. Plain, strong, simple, unshowy (except in the use of accessories).

  • Women are becoming tougher and dressing like men. Padded shoulders. High-waisted trousers. Boxy jackets. Overalls. Sweaters.
  • Women are being “sensible”. Utility suits. A-line skirts. No frills or finery.
  • The ultimate example of making a lot out of very little? The snood. Mostly holes, if we’re being honest.
  • The New Look: Christian Dior rebels against the pinched and plain and reinvents how to do everything. The result? “Flower women,” he says, “soft shoulders, blossoming bosoms, waists as slender as creepers and skirts as wide as corollas.” Helped by the fact that the sewing machine is now every girl’s best friend. 

Costumes for Men in the 1940s

As with women’s fashion of the time, the limitations brought on by shortages clash with men’s desire to rebel. On the one hand, the standard “demob” outfit consisting of a three-piece pinstripe suit or jacket and flannel trousers. On the other, the super-baggy, cloth-hungry, jazz-inspired zoot suit.

  • Colours are generally muted.
  • Pea coats, pullovers, cardigans and plaid shirts reflect a post-war wish for safety, comfort and security.
  • Sheepskin flight jackets let some men stay “in uniform” even after returning to civilian life.
  • Self-expression is mainly limited to what goes on top. A fedora, a trilby, a homburg, a bowler or (to go with your zoot suit) a pork pie hat. These aren’t just to keep your head warm. They say who you are (or who you want to be).
  • Sock suspenders, of course (you don’t want to be caught drooping). And, if you are part of the Tailored Elite and best mates with Noel Coward, please make sure your pocket square is in place and properly folded. 

Murder Mystery Games that can be set in the Forties

Other Costume Eras