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Washington D.C. / Street Scene / Photo c.1941
Washington D.C. (USA).

Street scene with launderette, hair dresser and shop.

Photo, c.1941/42, Louise Rosskam
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The 1940s in colour
Last year’s newsletters focused on vintage black & white photography, from shots of glamorous women to snaps of mystery men. This year, we have shifted our attention to colour and we are exploring original colour photographs and digitally colourised creations decade by decade.

This month, we take a look at the 1940s, a decade defined by the horrors of World War II and the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, yet also a time of great social change. Women of all social standings began to take on a more empowered role in the workforce, replacing many of the men who were fighting on the front line.

Ladies' fashion introduced an austere silhouette, modelled on the utility clothes that were being produced during wartime rationing. As a result, it became chic for women to sport squared shoulders, narrow hips, and skirts that ended just below the knee. Similarly, the working-class look (as portrayed by American icon Rosie the Riveter) inspired a generation.

Interested in having one of our black & white images colourised for your own project? Contact our research team to find out more about our free colourisation service.

Like these images? Journey further back in time decade by decade with these selections of colour photographs from the archive.