The rationing that took place during World War II (1939–45) seriously affected fashion in America for the first half of the decade. Even though businesses were prospering and people were finding more jobs and making more money than they had during the Depression of the 1930s, the country's newfound wealth could not be spent on fashion. Supplies of wool, cotton, linen, rayon, silk, and nylon that would have made fashionable attire were diverted to the war effort for uniforms, parachutes, and other supplies. The government even determined the maximum amount of fabric that could be used to make dresses (three-quarters of a yard) and tried to discourage fashion from shifting enough to spur interest in buying anything but the necessary attire.
Government restrictions and the limited supplies of fabric effectively froze fashion styles for women at 1939 looks. Without silk stockings, women either shaved their legs and drew a "seam" line down the back of their legs or wore bobby socks with their skirts. Padded shoulders were popular in dresses and jackets. With limited selections of jewelry and scarves to accessorize their outfits, women turned to hats, of which many styles could be found. Red lipstick was also a popular adornment to women's outfits during this lean period.
Men's fashions changed from generous three-pieced, double-breasted suits with cuffed and pleated pants to fabric-conserving suits with single-breasted jackets and plain-front, straight-legged pants. Supplies of these new suits were limited and many stores simply had none until after the war.
By the end of the war, men and women alike were ready to spend money on clothes. Among those in African American and Mexican American communities, the sleek zoot suit was popular. In 1947, French designer Christian Dior (1905–1957) introduced his New Look, resulting in many American designers quickly copying his fashions with tiny waistlines and flowing long skirts. The New Look remained popular until the 1960s. For those that could not afford designer fashions, ready-to-wear clothes from American manufacturers offered similar but not so extravagant copies of more expensive fashions.