Hot! Budgeting Your 1939 Summer Wardrobe

From the May 1939 Mademoiselle I purchased at the Alameda Point Antique Fair, here’s a little guide for budgeting your summer wardrobe in pre-war (or rather pre-US involvement) and pre-rationed America. According to the inflation calculator I used, the $147.71 that would be spent on three months of clothing in 1939 would be adjusted to $2,278.42 in 2010 prices. I suspect that like our magazines of today, they were strictly aspirational.

If you, in 2010, want to use this as a guide for your own summer wardrobe, here’s a bigger version of the summer budget file.

From the same issue, this pre-Photoshop disaster. Can you spot what’s missing?


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. I love the photo oops!
    And the budget sheet — so according to them, you should spend 1/4 your monthly income on clothing. Wow, I need to spend more on clothing, lol!!

  2. At first I found it hard to pick because the two floral sleeve heads blend, then I got it. But as I was sitting there in wonderment I realised that Miss Left has the same condition as Miss right, neither of them seem to require a right arm!

  3. Clearly, I’m not spending enough money on clothes! And who knew I should be budgeting for “reefer?” (!) My summer wardrobe now appears woefully inadequate. I do have two arms, though, so hey, at least I’ve got that going for me.

  4. Those women appear to be sharing an arm.

  5. You could have a lot of fun with this photo: how about siamese twins attached at the shoulder? And only two arms between the two of them. I love the budget for 3 months of clothing but I have never spent (today’s prices) that for even a year when I was working. At the time I was wearing nice business suits too.

  6. Strange how she only needs 3 pairs of panties for the entire year!

  7. I too aspire to spend this much on my clothes!! Although I’m not sure I want to really look like the lady on the left, she has rather evil eyes!!