Zoot Suit Girls, 1940s

Girls on the West Coast adopted and adapted zoot suits, made popular by working-class men in cities across the United States in the 1940s. During an era of rationing cloth, young Latinas donned loose pants and oversized jackets, challenging gendered expectations and authority.

Portrait of Ramona

Portrait of Ramona

Courtesy of Shades of LA Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

During World War II, women and girls were asked to support the war efforts by conserving cloth. Zoot suit girls bucked the norm and used more fabric.

Clothing regulations from Women's Wear Daily, 1942

Clothing regulations from Women's Wear Daily, 1942

Courtesy of Costume Collection, Division of Cultural and Community Life, National Museum of American History

Ration Book, 1942

Gift of Joan McCallister

View object record

This is a zoot suit, not a business suit!

Pachuca

Pachuca

Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Division of Library and Archives, obtained from azmemory.azlibrary.gov

Woman wearing a zoot suit

Woman wearing a zoot suit

Courtesy of Shades of LA Photo Collection/ Los Angeles Public Library

Courtesy of Shades of LA Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The girls wore their own style of dress, consisting of a long finger-tip length coat or letterman's sweater, draped slacks or a short, full skirt above or just to their brown knees....They usually made up heavily with mascara and lipstick, and the favorite hairstyle was a high pompadour with flowers and earrings.

—Beatrice Griffith, 1947

Make and Mend Magazine

Make and Mend Magazine

Fashion Magazine, 1940

Fashion Magazine, 1940