Easy Guide to a 1940s Woman’s Fashion Dress and Style.
This is a basic guide for quickly achieving the 1940s wardrobe look. We have much more detailed posts on typical wardrobes for women from the early to the late 1940s.
Some more detailed 1940s wardrobe planning from the period can be found on these posts:
Easy guide to a 1940s day outfit – the War years and after.
First of all, before you go looking anywhere else, try your own wardrobe. The 1940s day suit is a little harder to create, so keep it simple and find a frock ! A calf length or knee length will do, preferably pleated, and buttoned up at the front, with a fitted waist. If you can’t find a dress with a fitted waist, then a nice belt with a bow tie, can cinch your waist quite adequately. Shoulders were padded or ruffled. So remember that.
Whether it’s a dress, a knitted cardigan top, jacket or coat, the look you are trying to achieve is angular. Wide shoulders to tight cinched waist. Again, you would be surprised what you can dig out of your wardrobe or your mums !
Pads were popular back in the 1980s, so you could rework an outfit from then. Shoulder pads can be easily bought at any drapers, and hand sewn in to create the effect. Dress colors and designs were generally muted for winter and floral for the summer.
Polka dot patterns if you can find it. If you wish to wear a skirt instead, then find a knee length pleated skirt, not too wide at the hips, and wear a short to the waist – sleeveless tunic top or blouse with it.
For the late 1940s look, lose the pads on the shoulders and add them to the hips. Go for bell skirts and dresses and tiny waists with full bust.
How to create a typical 1940s women’s day outfit – video
Typical 1940s underwear and hosiery.
Invest in an open girdle, with attached suspenders. Apart from smoothing your silhouette, it helps you achieve a more sedate movement that is in keeping with the era. Avoid modern padded bras. If possible, a vintage corselette will give you the perfect 1940s silhouette.
For hosiery, avoid tights. It has to be fully fashioned and seamed tan stockings. The seam is a definite look for women’s legs in the 1940s. When stockings were hard to come by, women resorted to putting makeup on the legs and getting a friend to draw the seams on her legs with an eye pencil . Do not use hold ups either.
For typical 1940s women, this was the luxury item in their wardrobe. So get something decent in the hosiery section of your local department store. Better still, visit a bridal store for the real thing.
Create a simple 1940s hairstyle easily.
The key to the 1940s hairstyle look is the ‘pin back’ updo. You curl your hair with irons, and then grab a hold of some bobby pins.
Create some gentle ringlets with a curling iron. or if your hair is long, create long spiraling curls by wrapping every strand of hair around the iron. Finish off with a gentle hairspray.
Now you want to create what is known as the victory roll. This is the 1940s hairstyle.
Having waved your hair with the irons and set slightly with spray, roll one large curl on the top of your head,with a curling iron. Then wrap the large curl over the hand and pin into place with bobby pins. Voila ! Simple as that.
Lisa Freemont Streets Guide to 1940s Victory Rolls Hairstyle – video
Create a simple 1940s makeup look.
Simple enough really. Pale creamy foundation and loads of powder ! Cat eyeliner and redder than red full lips. Eyeshadow should be understated. Normal contouring to apply depending on your hairstyle and hair length. Our vintage makeup tutorial from the 1940s explains quite clearly. The choice of lipsticks, eye-shadows and eyeliner are yours to make. Finish off with by dotting a ‘ beauty spot’ on the lower cheek.
Vintage 1940’s Makeup Tutorial – video
Vintage – How to apply your 1940s makeup – video
Typical 1940s women’s hats and shoes and gloves.
If you have nice pair of wedges, then you’re already set, as most 1940s women’s shoes styles were relatively wide heeled.
Heel height on the other hand could be quite adventurous, especially for evening pumps.Practicality was the key look. A pair of Oxfords and Mary Janes with t-straps will create the effect.
For hats, bearing in mind that hair was often pinned up, the popular style of hat wear were bonnets and fascinators, something you could pin on to your victory roll. Berets were also popular during the war.
The snood – made popular by Vivien Leigh, would also create a nice 1940s war look effect to finish off your hairstyle. Just wearing a simple black beret with rolled hair can really give you that 1940s look.
For the more exotic late 1940s Dior look, a wide brimmed hat ! A pair of gloves or lace gloves for a summer effect to finish the look off, and for the late 1940s, grab a parasol.
Highly recommended reading for any 1940’s style enthusiast is Debbie Wells superb 1940’s style guide for women.