“The New Silhouette Lines”

Rounded shoulders, fuller skirts, nipped-in waistlines and high-climbing throat-lines . . . these are the new silhouettes to look for.

Consider these highlights when shopping, but don’t be a slave to the mode if it’s wrong for you.

From the booklet “Back to Civvies,”  held by the The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

“Buying Fasion”

Always remember that simplicity is the keynote of dressing smartly. Avoid choosing fashions that were “in” when you went into the Navy; chances are they’re “out” now. Here’s where your study of fashion magazines comes in.

Try to get clothes that are coming into fashion. You will be happier with them longer.

Avoid the fashion you meet on every third woman. When you see the same dress in every shop window, you may be sure it has reached its peak of popularity, and is not going to last as long, fashion-wise, as something which is in far less quantity.

Avoid the pitfall of exaggerated fashions; the too-wide shoulder, the too-nipped-in waist. The too-deep armhole. When in doubt, always take the middle of the road.

From the booklet “Back to Civvies,”  held by the The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Pretty, Smart or Crisp?

The Navy gave women three options for their personal “look” after getting out of the military: pretty, smart or crisp:

If the answer is:

  • “Pretty”–then choose a feminine hat, soft dresses,
  • “Smart”–the a few very smooth clothes for you,
  • “Crisp”–then stick to tailored clothes.

From the booklet “Back to Civvies,”  held by the The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Back to Civvies

The Navy’s help for women heading back to civilian life extended beyond just the practical information needed to muster out of service.  Remember, the WAVES were consider the most fashionable and best dressed branch of the service, with couture uniforms designed by Mainbocher.

So it should come as no surprise that the Navy offered women suggestions for how the former WAVES could remain fashionable after they returned home.

This booklet is held by the The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Past Lives

The WAVES base newspapers also reminded women of what they had left behind. In this comic, a WAVE (dressed in her summer grey seersucker uniform) wistfully remembers the fashions she was able to follow before joining the WAVES.

Before thinking that the comic was criticizing the uniform, remember that the WAVES’ uniform was couture-designed by the famous designer Mainbocher – and that while WAVES did wear a uniform on the outside, they could choose their own nightclothes and undergarments.

So even though they “gave it all up” they did so to become a part of what newspapers and magazines said at the time were “the best dressed women in America.”

This comes from the archives at the University of Northern Iowa.

Love and Marriage

Franny Prindle met her husband-to-be Seth Taft while she was still in college. Seth was the grandson of the former U.S. President William Harding Taft.  They were both officers in the Navy.

Initially, WAVES weren’t allowed to be married. But the Navy discovered that they were losing out on some qualified women (or were forcing them to resign upon marriage). So first women were only allowed to marry outside of the Navy. Then that policy too changed, and WAVES were allowed to marry Navy men.

This photograph is of Franny on her wedding day: June 19, 1943. She and Seth were both Ensigns at the time – he wore his dress whites to the ceremony. She had a half-dozen bridesmaids and changed into her Navy uniform before departing on her honeymoon.

This photograph is courtesy of Franny Prindle Taft.