I wrote this article originally for WWII Re-enactors Magazine and thought you all might also be interested in this little bit of this historic information. Unfortunately the magazine is out of circulation, but I saw some back issues on the Paul Meekins website which is a great source for war history books and magazine.
Doing men’s work in factories during WWII had an adverse effect on women’s feminine self-image, but women still did their best to stick to their beauty routines. It was considered part of her duty to keep up her outward appearance for both her own morale and for those around her. In the 1940 book Technique for Beauty, author Jane Gordon advises women that, “The stress and strain of war can easily make you lose interest in your personal appearance, but it is up to you to take care of yourself for the sake of other people.”
Except these ladies now had very different lifestyles and sets of duties that made it more difficult to maintain their outer beauty. War manufacturing plants and military posts started operating beauty salons on their properties for the convenience of workers and members of the women’s branch of the army. These salons provided services and cosmetics for the woman who’s schedule made it more difficult to make it to her usual salon or to the department store. Factories like the Tung Sol war plant in Newark, New Jersey, invited cosmetic companies to conduct makeup classes to foster interest in beauty services.
These conveniences helped boost self esteem which was considered an important part of the war effort for both the happiness of the soldiers and the productivity of the workers. According to a 1943 Barbara Gould advertisement, women were expected to, “keep busy…and keep beautiful.”