With the playful slap of the Roaring Twenties, soon came the combined gut punches of the rise of fascism and the Great Depression. To say these two enormous events had an effect on how people felt and thought, would be an embarrassing understatement. Almost overnight the giddy explorations of the 20s were over, the feeling of endless youthfulness was gone, and the mainstay of the culture felt a deep sadness and fear leaching the joy from life. Even the wealthy were touched by the events that shaped the times, as many of the rich were toppled. And millions went jobless, hungry, and homeless. Even Nature itself left us standing alone as the Great Dustbowl ravaged the plains and made Americans for the first time fearful of where the food would be coming from.
There were two primary ways that these feelings of gloom, betrayal, and uneasiness made themselves known in how we looked.
As the problems intensified with the widening depression, and the dark presence of war tapping on our door, manifest apparel became even more refined, and quietly ladylike, rather than jubilantly insouciant. Colors, in the main, became softer, and the often glaring contrasts present in the fashions of the 20s were replaced by softer combinations, and a greater reliance on texture.
And then the unthinkable happened. War. A bigger, nastier, more potentially devastating conflict than in all of human history broke out, and involved a greater percentage of us all in its madness than ever before.
As nation after nation committed themselves to fighting the growing aggression, unprecedented amounts of materiel were needed to push that effort forward. As a consequent, more than one country instituted regulations governing the usage of textiles and the freedom of citizens to purchase clothing.
The serious note that had existed in the 30s extended, with greater intensity, into the 40s. The attire of women became boxy, simplified and reliant on scraps and snippets for decoration. A typical dress in the US was allowed only 2 yards of material, no excessive pleats, no ruffles, no patch pockets, and no attached hoods or full sleeves were permitted.
As had happened before, the only place where women could express their originality was hats. Hats made from tiny scraps, newsprint, wood shavings, anything and everything that wasn't rationed or proscribed got used, and some of the most fantastical chapeaux ever were created.