In the life of a 1940s teenager, there was a war going on, but it was something that only seemed to effect their parents. With outside life oblivious to them and marketers still trying to identify this new teen-age demographic the fashions that real teens wore and what was marketed to them were quite different.
These interesting photographs below were taken by LIFE photographer Nina Leen for a December 1944 article, “Teen-Age Girls: They Live in a Wonderful World of Their Own.” Leen focused on a group of 12 girls, from 15 to 17 years old, living in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
In its December 1944 feature, LIFE breathlessly discussed the “teen-age” phenomenon in language that somehow feels naive, chauvinistic, celebratory and insightful, all at once. That so many of the article’s impossibly broad, sweeping claims (“Some 6,000,000 U.S. teen-age girls live in a world all their own: a lovely, gay, enthusiastic, funny and blissful society. . . .”) clearly apply to a specific type of teenager — i.e., white, middle-class — tends to blunt some of the more incisive observations. But taken as a whole, the LIFE article and Leen’s photographs constitute a fascinating, early look at a segment of the American populace that, over the ensuing decades, for better and for worse, has assumed an increasingly central role in the shaping of Western culture.
(Photos: Nina Leen—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)