I used to sell vintage clothing on eBay, and had a blast doing it. I learned so much about fashion history, and made a few dollars. As quality vintage became harder to find, I shifted my efforts elsewhere, but still remember pieces I wish I’d kept and pieces I actually did keep. My favorites were nearly all 1940’s dresses, jackets and skirts. They have a silhouette I love and that flatters me.
Women’s fashions during the World War II years took on a uniform-inspired look with strong shoulders (via shoulder pads). This made for a shoulder line that still flatters my torso. And I love the 1940’s bit of gathering at the shoulder, sometimes down to the elbow, so charming. Most dresses had narrow hips, defined waists, and skirts that ended just below the knee, a dramatic change from the long flowy dresses of the 1930’s (also delightful, but now hard to find).
Nylon and wool were both rationed for war efforts, and Japanese silk was banned in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor. Rayon, a new hybrid fabric, stepped up to fill the gap, and most of my favorite 40’s dresses are rayon. That means super-careful care, but a lovely drape. (Note: there are many more, deeper analyses of 40’s fashions all over the internet, so please take this as my own humble observations and preferences).
If you’d like to revive the 40’s looks, but with more modern clothes, you can find lots of help in 1980’s styles. There was a definite Eighties Does Forties movement that produced some amazing dresses, in stronger fabrics and easier care. Find an 80’s frock, lightly pleated, or buttoned up at the front, with a fitted waist. Or just cinch your waist with a belt. Look for padded or ruffled shoulders (not too extreme). The overall look is angular on top, but with a feminine drape at the hem, and you are a 40’s babe.
Some fab looks that speak to 1940’s style:
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Header image via The House of Foxy.