The 1940s: Timeless Glamour for the Modern Woman

1945.

World War II had just ended, war vets were returning home, and most people felt a vague uncertainty about the road ahead: could peace, Americans wondered, really last?

Tensions with the U.S.S.R. were rising and the Cold War, not far off in the distance. This was a time of hope and affluence, but equally an age of fear and apprehension.

1940s fashion embodied this uncertain spirit. Fabric rationing ended shortly after Allied victory, and fashion houses like Dior made striking comebacks with luxurious textiles and extravagant furs. Women were tired of sacrificing for the war effort and, in 1945, they no longer had to- America was embarking on an unprecedented age of prosperity and wealth.

The world may have changed drastically after WWII, but the fashion did not. Gone were the days of Rosie the Riveter and disrupted gender roles; Americans wanted to return to the “real” life demolished by war. Pencil skirts, hour-glass silhouettes, pin-tuck blouses: all of these trends nostalgically turned to an earlier femininity unadulterated by bloodshed.

We all can learn a thing or two from the classic demure 1940s aesthetic. After all, who hasn’t left an Old Hollywood film star-struck by the glamor and effortless femininity of its actresses? With spring on the horizon, here are some tips to channel the 1940s elegant, ultra-girly spirit.

1. THE HALTER

Natalie One Piece by Anthropologie
Natalie One Piece by Anthropologie

In times of trashy reality T.V., exposed cleavage and fashions so revealing we have to wonder whether they can qualify as “clothes,” we often forget the profound (if overstated) truth of “less is more.” Leave something to the imagination this spring and wear a prim (but equally sexy) halter one-piece. I especially love it in black; classy and elegant, a little black number is alluring without being obvious. Plus, the perfect cut and a solid neutral will flatter any body type.

2. THE FILM NOIR TRENCH

Richard Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past, circa 1947
Richard Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past, circa 1947

The setting: a corrupt small town. The mood: grim. Dangerous, thrill-seeking women; the straight-shooting, good guy detective: this is 1940s film noir. Your life may not be as bleak or unpredictable as these Old Hollywood movies, but you can still channel your inner femme fatal and look as jaw-dropping as these chicks. So if you find yourself facing breezy March winds or a surprising spout of April showers, opt for a timeless trench like this one by Marc Jacobs…you’ll look like a temptress, I promise.

Marc Jacobs Trench
Marc Jacobs Trench

3. THE PORTRAIT OF DOMESTICITY 

The Best Years of Our Lives, circa 1946
The Best Years of Our Lives, circa 1946

We have come leaps and bounds from the portrait of woman as homemaker; however, we can still take some pointers from the 1940s housewife aesthetic. Minimalistic and wholesomely coy, nothing is more chic than a blouse paired with a pleated skirt. Buttons give the look an adorable quirkiness, while a structured shoulder keeps it from falling into unforgivably girly territory. Add a belt to define your waist and you’ll look marvelously lady-like.

Button Down Blouse & Pleated Skirt  Both by American Apparel
Button Down Blouse & Pleated Skirt
both by American Apparel
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