Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

  I love the women's fashions from the 40's/50's era. If I had it my way I would throw away my jeans and t-shirts and switch them out for a closet full of voluminous, midi-length skirts, pencil skirts, silky button up blouses, skirt suits, casual gloves, glossy pearls, of course, hats! I would trade in my boring, everyday pony tail for flouncy pin curls and my overrated two piece swim suit for a retro- one piece suit. Ah yes, the apparel in those days, though more modest than today's, was wayy more appealing in my opinion. The women of this time period knew how to strut their stuff without baring it all---a skill many women today can't seem to master. 

I love looking up pictures of women from these decades and admiring the different trends of the time. However, it's always disconcerting to see that there isn't a lot of diversity when it comes to the typical images of the women sporting these fashions. When you think of the typical 40's/50's woman, what do you imagine? Does she have blond, curly hair,doe eyes, porcelain skin, and a perfect hourglass figure? This is probably the image most people come up with when they think of 40's/50's women. Sometimes it's easy to forget that women of different colors and sizes even existed in the United States back then. We don't usually see a lot of images outside of the glamorized, blond bombshell category when we talk about 1940s/50's women because, well, women of color weren't really, ( and still aren't really) accepted as mainstream Americana. So I went on a search for images of minority women flaunting fabulous fashions from these decades to help expose the often unseen histories of women of color in the U.S.

This is Linda Herr’s senior portrait from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, California, 1942.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Friends Enriqueta “Rikki” Caceres (L) and Alice Gonzalez Morales (R) in San Pedro, California wearing dresses that hint at the swing dresses that will become so popular in the 1940s. The photo was taken in 1935.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Tweed Coats!(1945)

Mexican American flappers Eloise Arciniega and Hortensia Arciniega (wearing the cloche hat) pose with an unidentified man in Long Beach, California, 1928.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Mary Martel is posing next to her car wearing the happiest polka dotted dress ever. The photo was taken in 1945 in Los Angeles, California.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is Mary Shon (right) and her friend outside Yim’s Ice Cream Parlor in Los Angeles, California in 1938.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is Susan Ahn in Cedar Falls, Iowa during Navy training. She was the first Asian American in the United States Navy. The photo was taken in 1942.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

The photographer Addison N. Scurlock took this photograph of Effie Moore and her chorus troupe in the 1930s.

Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History; Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center

Students in a 1947 charm course at the Palmer Memorial Institute, a preparatory school for upper class African Americans in North Carolina. The school was named after Alice Freeman Palmer, former president of Wellesley College.

Image found in Malia McAndrew’s essay, “Selling Black Beauty: African American Modeling Agencies and Charm... in the Organization of American Historians magazine.

Caption from The SartorialistThis is a photo of my very elegant grandmother, Sushila Rao, posing with her new camera in India, where she was born and raised. It was probably taken sometime in the 1940s. She’s wearing a tailored, white linen suit and flat, brown leather sandals, which make her look so strong despite the fact that she’s very petite. It was very daring of her to be out and about in menswear back then, rather than a traditional sari!


Looking so cool on a warm summer day in Greenwood, Mississippi (ca. 1950s). Unfortunately, there’s no identifying information attached to this photo.


These Mexican American women are on a YWCA outing in 1944. They’re posing in a mountain stream. I’m especially loving the individualist on the far left standing ankle deep in the stream, in trousers and a sweater.

 The exact date of the photo is not known but the Smithsonian lists the date as 1930-1940.

Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Encar Villanueva 1956

Elks Fashion Show

Source: H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College archive in Alabama.





Esther Rivera 1946


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Comment by Maria Teresa Rodriguez on July 2, 2012 at 1:13pm

I love hairstyles more than the clothes lol but I like 60's fashion too.




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