1940’s Zoot Suit Fashion for Men and Women
The zoot suit was a style of dress that became popular during the late 1930s among young people, especially young African Americans and Mexican Americans, who were into dancing and jazz music. The suit itself was loud and extremely loose, and reached the height of its popularity in the early and mid ’40s. When wartime rationing restricted the amount of fabric that could be used in men’s suits along with everything else, the zoot suit technically became illegal. Young people continued to wear the style despite the restrictions, and the suits soon became associated with delinquency and crime. Most wearers were simply rebellious youths, many in inner city urban areas like Harlem and Los Angeles, trying to form a culture all their own. The wearers of zoot suits were seen as being unpatriotic, and tensions between zoot-suiters and military servicemen stationed in California erupted in a week of violent street fighting in Los Angeles in mid-1943 that came to be known as the Zoot Suit Riots.
The man’s zoot suit consisted of an extremely long and wide suit jacket with large lapels with huge shoulder pads worn over extremely baggy trousers that came well above the waist – about halfway up the chest. The pants tapered at the bottom to a very tight cuff at the ankles and were held up with suspenders. A plaid button-down shirt, tie, pointy leather shoes and a wide-brimmed fedora hat completed the look on the east coast. In the west, the tie and hat were replaced by hair greased back into a tail. The zoot suit was usually wool and in black pinstripes, plaids or very bright colors like red, royal blue, yellow and purple.
Although the man’s suit is more well known, young women also participated in the zoot style. Their version was a short skirt that showed plenty of leg – it was an inch or two above the knee! The skirt was made of rayon or cotton and was gathered and had flow to it – it had to swing for all of that dancing – and sat at the waistline. It was usually plain but bright in color and fastened on the side with a metal zipper or buttons. A plain white blouse, usually short-sleeved, was worn tucked into the skirt. Women also wore a wide, long wool suit jacket with large shoulder pads – the jacket was almost as long as their skirts. Fishnet stockings or knee socks were worn with black leather high-heeled shoes (about 2 ½ inches was high at the time) with an ankle strap. For the Latina zoot-suiter, hair was worn in a giant, exaggerated bouffant-style on top of the head with the rest of the hair falling loose in the back.
www.suavecito.com Off the rack or custom made men’s zoot suits. Also rentals.
You have just read a section from the 1940’s Style Guide: The Complete Illustrated Guide to 1940’s Fashion for Men and Women. To read more pick up a copy of the book today!