1940’s Fashion – Womens Dress Style after the War

Women’s Dress Codes up to Christian Dior’s New Look –


Follow up to Women’s Dress Code of the 1940’s – the War Years. 

Now read the full Concise Illustrated History of 1940’s Women’s Fashion – 1940 to 1949. Click on the image below.


If you are looking to quickly and easily recreate the 1940’s look for a party or some function, try our Easy Guide to 1940s Women’s Dress and Style
Womens Dress Style after the War
The image of the Land Girl / Factory Girl and the restrictions of Utility clothing, was replaced very quickly by a return to a more feminine fashion. The American Look had dominated fashion during the war, with Paris somewhat smothered during Nazi occupation.


Though Christian Diors outrageous New Look certainly dominated the headlines in 1947, it is perhaps true to suggest that fashion was becoming more feminine on both sides of the Atlantic, and not merely due to a decree from Paris.

Womens Dress Style after the War
Like all style trends, design covers four main components of fashion ….

The Silhouette | The Detail | The Color | and the Fabric

The Silhouette

In the 1947, women’s dress code changed dramatically from the trim waist and hips ,broad chest and shoulder pads with shoulder-length curled or rolled hair to the New Look !

Womens Dress Style after the War
Womens Dress Style after the War - Diors New Look

Christian Diors almost frenetic employment of frau-frau in this styles, with severely cinched waists and extra padding to the hips, suggested a return to the Gibson girl look of the 1900s.


It was of course stylized and the gamine  silhouette was just as easy to emphasize. The key here was the movement of the line from the shoulders back to the hips and waist again.

Womens Dress Style after the War - Diors New Look

The New Look debuted via Christian Dior in 1947. The sloping shoulders, cinched waists ,and wider than wide hips certainly made for great media coverage after the gloom and horror of the war.

With Longer lengths and drastically fuller skirts. Woman’s fashion now changed to a soft, feminine and decidedly romantic image.As a result, ironically, women’s emancipation was stalled somewhat with women being shooed back into the kitchen once more.

The Detail –

Day wear in the late 1940s.


1.The fitted jacket-and-skirt suit, with a peplum to the hip
2. One- and two-fabric day dresses with squarish curved necklines,
3. The bust shaped by soft flowing gathers , swags or drapery on the skirt.

Womens Dress Style after the War
Evening-wear Dress styles of the late 1940’s.

1. Lace and taffeta with asymmetric, bouffant styling were all the rage.
2. Cap sleeved cotton blouses [ and rayon too for a while until polyester arrived ]
3. Wide-leg pants and matching tap-style shorts for recreation .


Womens Dress Style after the War - evening gowns
Women’s Underwear in the late 1940’s.


By the end of the forties,corsets had been finally replaced by the all in one girdle and the increasingly popular two piece – bra and the girdle.

Womens Dress Style after the War - lingerie

Nylon Stockings began to adorn women’s legs once more, having been used chiefly for parachutes during the war years.


This time the sale of fully fashioned stockings took off on a global scale.
There wasn’t a fashionable woman alive who couldn’t wait to jump into the latest pair.

Womens Dress Style after the War - hosiery
Women’s Shoes in the late 1940’s.

Wedge heels were still worn but now with shallower wedges.
Shoes became more delicate,high-heeled court shoes, or shoes finely strapped round the ankles, worn with beige nylons were the rage for a time as part of the ” New Look”.
Plain high heeled black leather or suede court shoes were the main shoe style.

Womens Dress Style after the War - shoe pumps

Women’s Hats and Gloves in the 1940’s

Hat design for women went completely mad during the 1940’s – every shape and size was in. Recycling your old hat into something unique was also very popular.

Womens Dress Style after the War - hats
A becoming hat was designed to enhance your good features and to counteract ones less attractive features.

For example -glasses were not considered a nice feature for a girl in the 1940’s.

girls who wear glasses 1940s
Oh dear – we can’t have that, can we ? ! -so a hat with a brim worn just above glasses would make them less conspicuous.etc.

Womens Dress Style after the War - hats
Headscarves -having been used extensively in the factories during the war were also incorporated by designers.

Rouched Chiffon Gloves were popular in the 1940’s and Opera Gloves continued to be worn right into the 1950’s for evening wear.

1940’s Fashion Colors

The color of fashion in the early 1940’s went to war as well,with patriotic nautical themes and dark greens and khakis dominating the color palates,though some morning dresses had bright floral shades. After the war, color became a feature once more,with shocking feminine primary colors becoming the rage, as exemplified by the glossy Vogue Covers.
Clothing Dye like DYLON went on to thrive in ‘make-do & mend’ post war Britain making fabric dyes to brighten up the homes, wardrobes and spirits of women across the country.

1940s clothing colors

The Color Helm, produced by Ostwald Color Standards in the 1940’s was the standard
color guide.
The Color Helm, produced by Ostwald Color Standards

The Women’s Wearing Apparel version was hugely popular for obvious reasons.
It suggested color combinations [ for home dressmaking or dyeing ] in the degree of contrast
wanted !

Clothing Fabric in the 1940’s

Natural fibers such as linen, cotton, wool, and silk. Rayon [ artificial silk ] originally patented in 1926 for dress making was the big thing for those women who were handy with a singer sewing machine.

Clothing Fabric in the 1940's
and finally a snapshot of typical fashion accessories for women in the 1940’s

typical fashion accessories for women in the 1940's
That’s all !

Direct to your smartphone, tablet or laptop, beautifully restored vintage makeup guides.

1940s beauty guides

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11 thoughts on “1940’s Fashion – Womens Dress Style after the War”

  1. Hi, this is a fantastic post.

    I have always adored c.1940s women's fashion. I am particularly interested in the nature of the underwear/shapewear that you mentioned.

    In the 1940s fashion was about using shapewear to sculpt the body. Underwear such as the corset and girdle were standard pieces worn everyday. In this context, it was the shape and tailoring of the silhouette cast rather than the clothes worn.

    This is why I find stars such as Dita von Teese far more interesting than any of the Victoria's Secret Angels. Dita is very sensual and pin-up, but her sexuality is expressed through costume, makeup and art.

    In the case of the Victorias Secret models, although I think they are beautiful I find it hard comparing myself to a scantily clad 6 ft model who weighs less than 50 kilos. It leaves little to the imagination.

    Which is what I admire Dita for: I've never heard, been told, bothered to google or enquire about her weight or height. Its that impression, allusion she leaves that I badly want to recreate myself. Its that 1940s image where sexuality is a heightened experience created through calculated clothing and conduct; not merely a height to weight ratio as it seems to be today.

  2. Thanks for posting! My school is doing guys and Dolls for our annual musical which is set in this time period, so it really helped with costuming ideas!

  3. Fashion and women are almost inseparable. Mostly all women tend to have the innate sense of fashion which is why they are likely to go wrong with their dressing sense. However, sometimes even the best of fashion divas tend to mess up with their clothing style. Swimwear

  4. You always do your homework! Such an informative post and I just adore the New Look, absolutely my favourite!
    Great post as always!

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