What American [Woman’s] Look Looked Like, 1945

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In the May 21, 1945 issue of LIFE Magazine, an article called “The American Look” appeared alongside wonderful images by photographer Nina Leen. Asserting that during WWII, US GIs had travelled the world and found the world’s women lacking in comparison to the “girls back home,” the article is a charming celebration of the fresh-scrubbed American girl, a wonderful look back at fashion and beauty in the 1940s and, of course, is a bit unintentionally funny to the modern eye.

In this most immense of wars Americans have involuntarily absorbed such a knowledge of people and races as would never come their way in peacetime years. Naturally the GIs’ interest in racial strains involves girls. They have seen and evaluated the relative endowments of English girls, French girls, Australian girls, Polynesian girls. They have found some to be beautiful, some pretty, some exotic. But none of them look like American girls and the GI has come to appreciate and miss, with a deep and genuine poignance, the look that sets American girls apart from those of all other lands.

The article stands the test of time and is amazing — even if some of the ideas are more than a bit outdated at this point — mainly due to the beautiful photographs taken by Nina Leen. Leen was one of the first female photographers for LIFE and is best known for her images of fashion, Americana and animals.

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