The 1940s: Timeless Glamour for the Modern Woman Part II

THE CAP-SLEEVE BLOUSE & TROUSER PANT

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Banned Vintage Off White Button Up Cap Sleeve Blouse, $48 and Banned 1940s Navy High Waist Crepe Full Moon Sailor Pants, $58, both available at uniquevintage.com

Hell Bunny 1940s Collar

Hell Bunny 1940s Black & Ivory Collar Button Up Olsen Blouse, $54, available at uniquevintage.com

What do I admire most about femme fatales?  Is it the way these conniving, duplicitous bad girls dupe their lovers?  Or the callous decisiveness with which they take their revenge?  Barbara Stanwyck.  Jane Greer.  For me, what makes these women so remarkable isn’t their alluring brand of treachery (though Stanwyck looks wickedly seductive as she lures men to their doom while indifferently smoking a cigarette); it’s the way they unapologetically defied their gender.

The chicest women know fashion-like composition-is a matter of balance.  This summer channel your inner femme fatale and juxtapose a structured masculine top with a pair of ultra-feminine trousers.  The blouse’s cap sleeves and sharp lines give the ensemble bad girl edge while its classic ivory color renders the look adorably retro.  Flowy high-waisted pants offset the rigidness of the top and gorgeously flatter the feminine form.  Want to transition this sultry silhouette to winter?  Just swap the navy pant for a classic tweed trouser.  Add a pair of white cat eye glasses and you’ll look as darkly disarming as your favorite femme fatale.

THE KEY-HOLE BLOUSE & PLEATED CIRCLE SKIRT

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Banned Retro Off White Sleeveless Basic Instinct Keyhole Top, $50, available at uniquevintage.com

Is there anything more delightfully darling than this keyhole top?  The cream color and demure neckline embody a dainty femininity while the key-hole and asymmetrical detail add a charming vintage pop.  Whether you’re heading to the office or enjoying a midday picnic, this elegant blouse will ensure you look nothing short of extraordinary.  

Want to look superbly girly?  Pair this lovely number with an ultra lady-like 1940s pleated skirt.  Its classic circle shape is iconic-not to mention incredibly flattering when paired with a structured shirt.

THE THREE-QUARTER SLEEVE SWEATER & TWEED PENCIL SKIRT

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Banned Retro Yolk Yellow Three-Quarter Bow Sleeve Knit Modern Love Top, $32, available at uniquevintage.com

Want to look fabulously fetching the next time you strut into work?   If you’re a pin-up girl who wants to look polished, this three-quarter sleeve top is a must.  Its classic boat neck recalls the modesty of an earlier era and keeps the look demure enough for work.  Practically, I love that its thin, stretchy material makes it easy to seamlessly tuck into a skirt.  And who can resist a soft knit in an unexpected color like mustard yellow?  Make the look even more killer by adding a curve-hugging pencil skirt. 

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Piece of the Week: The Sheath Dress

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ModCloth Teaching Classy Dress in Flower Silhouettes, $64.99, available at modcloth.com

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman”- Coco Chanel

Nothing exudes more self-assurance than a woman in an exquisitely tailored sheath dress.  Sharp, smartly detailed and endlessly versatile, a sheath dress can transform you into a serious scholar one minute and a stunning glamazon the next.  Personally, I adore this darling version by ModCloth.  A charming floral print and side pockets make you a delightful sight, while a demure, pleated neckline and structured fit keep the look adorably professional.  Add a pop of bright pink coral in the form of a cinched belt and you’ll be getting As in style.

Ways to Wear

The Mad Men Maven

betty-and-don-draper

The glamor of 1960s women always dumbfounds me.  How did they possibly find the time to create the perfect smoldering eyes and set their hair every night?  Watching Mad Men, I find myself nostalgic for a simpler time, a period when women-like Betty-wore ladylike ballerina skirts and it wasn’t laughably stiff to wear formal elbow length gloves to dinner.  Such women embodied a dignified poise, a cultivated refinement lacking in our era of sweatpants and tee shirts.  We might not be able to teleport to the age of bouffant big hair but we can resurrect some of Miss Betty’s tasteful femininity with a sheath dress and bright scarf this winter.  Simply find a patterned scarf, tie it around your neck (or channel your inner Jackie O and wrap it elegantly around your head) and viola: you look bewitchingly put together.  If your sheath is a more neutral color, pair with a bag in a bold hue to give the outfit interest and texture.  I especially like the turquoise suitcase (Modcloth It’s Not Pocket Science Bag, $54.99, available on modcloth.com) pictured.

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The Scholarly Over-Achiever 

You’re a 3rd year college student diligently studying for finals.  The library smells like mahogany, old books and espresso.  As you hopelessly search for a seat in the crowded main stacks, the marble floors clink beneath your feet.  Overhead, the ivory white ceiling curves to form a half dome.  A bookish intellectual in Oxfords and horn-rimmed glasses leaves just as you pass his table, so you quickly steal his seat.  You unload your composition notebook, your tattered copy of Paradise Lost and some pencils.  Studious and ambitious, you’re ready to (once again) earn all As on your exams.

Even if you didn’t graduate at the top of your class, you can still take inspiration from Ivy League academics.  Couple your polished sheath dress with a cozy cardigan in rich beige and you’ll be sure to ace even your toughest finals.

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Piece of the Week: The White Tee

 

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Uniqlo Supima Cotton Tee

Just as learning the alphabet is fundamental to the mastery of a language, so is a closet of basics crucial to a stylish wardrobe.  Essentials like the white tee form the basis of your closet, so invest in high quality material.  This fall, I recommend you luxuriate your senses in this classic white tee by Uniqlo.  Made of the world’s finest cotton, this iconic piece is so superbly soft you’ll want to wear it everyday.  These divinely comfortable tees come in several colors and cuts, so be sure to stock up! 

Ways to Wear:

The Tough Girl Fashionista 

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Who said basics had to be boring?  Edge up your crisp white tee with a gritty, over-sized denim jacket.  Distressed denim provides a hip counterweight to the neatness of the white tee while skinny black jeans, big sunglasses and coral-colored nails nicely complement the rebelliousness of the jacket.

If you’re in the market for some tough girl denim, look no further than the iconic Levi Strauss & Co.’s boyfriend trucker jacket in sunshine indigo.  Made of the highest quality stretch mid-weight denim, the boyfriend jacket is a modern update on a classic piece. Relaxed but never sloppy, the Levi’s trucker jacket takes a cue from the punk rock vibe of your boyfriend’s denim.  Absolutely adore the color (not to mention the name…who wouldn’t delight in a color called “sunshine indigo”?)  Light and slightly bleached, its unconventional shade makes the jacket effortlessly cool while the distressing details give it a one-of-a-kind feel.  Personally, I prefer lighter shades for denim jackets: a crisp dark wash (though sophisticated for a pant) seems too uptight for this greaser staple.  If you want a less expected alternative to the traditional blue, opt for one in black or charcoal.

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The City Strolling Hipster 

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Whether you’re grabbing a cappuccino in Greenwich village or thrifting on SF’s Haight street, pair a simple white tee with rock n’ roll cut offs and a leather jacket for a look that’s charmingly defiant, maybe even a little too cool.  Add a cozy burgundy scarf and darling polka dot tights and you’ll be ready to navigate the urban jungle.

The Chic European Debutante 

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Imagine: you’re leisurely pedaling through the idyllic cobblestone streets of Copenhagen.  The reassuring smell of pastries wafts through the autumn air.  As the splendor of the midday sun streams across the brightly-colored buildings, you can hear the hushed murmurs of friends chatting beneath pin-striped umbrellas on a cafe plaza.  Like Audrey Hepburn, you are a European debutante: the embodiment of elegance and grace.  Though there’s nothing particularly dazzling about either her 3/4 sleeve tee or her trousers, the refinement of Miss Hepburn’s ensemble derives from this very simplicity.  Polished and minimalistic, a black tee looks stunning with an impeccably neat (and, may I add, perfectly tailored) pant.  Tie your curly hair into a messy chignon and slip on some adorable ballet flats this fall and you’ll look similarly chic.

The Renovated Closet: Revamping Your Wardrobe in 2 Simple Steps

When people open their closets, they usually complain they have nothing to wear…not me. My problem isn’t I have nothing to wear- it’s I always wear the same thing in the same exact way. Take my darling teaching classy dress from ModCloth: I have always worn it with the bright fuchsia-pink belt it comes with- I’ve never tried it with another color belt, never experimented with playful accessories, never tied a 60s style scarf around my neck like the unbelievably chic women in Mad Men, never tried it with a bright-colored cardigan.

Contrary to popular belief, the first step to reinventing your wardrobe isn’t buying new clothes-it’s finding inventive ways of combining pieces you already own. Why not reinvigorate that adorable black and white pinstripe dress with an edgy denim jacket and military combat boots? Or finally pair those stylish, edgy black ankle booties you never wear with your favorite party dress? It’s astounding how little of our closets we wear. I myself probably wear a third of my closet on a regular basis. Why is this? What about the other two thirds? It’s not that I dislike these little used pieces (I liked them enough to grab them off the rack at one point, after all); it’s just that I’ve gotten in the habit of only wearing particular pieces and only pairing them with particular things. Next time you feel stultified by your own lack of fashion resourcefulness, follow these two simple steps to revamp your wardrobe instead of indulge in a regrettable thousand dollar shopping spree:

1. experiment with what you already own. Do always wear that little black dress with wedges for a night out with the girls? Can you give it some casual rock-and-roll and instead pair it with herringbone tights and some military boots? What about that darling sheath you wear nearly everyday to work? Can you infuse it with new life by layering it over a button down? Or do you always wear that floral dress with your signature black flats? Can you exchange your beloved black for a less expected color? Reviving a lifeless wardrobe requires one trait and one trait only: ingenuity. You don’t need to completely overhaul your closet to renovate your look and you certainly don’t need to spend thousands of dollars-all you need is a little inventiveness and inspiration.

2. stock up on basics. The key to a functioning wardrobe is a stockpile of basics. Any fashion maven will tell you that style begins with the essentials. White tee shirts. Jeans. Denim jackets. Think about it: you can only experiment with enchanting colors if you possess a plain, white canvas. Only after you take stock of your wardrobe and brainstorm interesting ways to combine what you already own, can you assess what you actually need. Are you always pairing the same pieces because they simply don’t go with anything else? Stop frittering away money on the season’s latest “it” items and instead invest in essentials. A simple white tee shirt can yield surprisingly high returns.

Practicality or Aesthetics? The Sphinx of Style Solved

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At its most basic, style is not luxury or labels-it’s being comfortable. Even the most stunning dress looks dreadful if you’re tugging at the hem or adjusting your bra straps all night. Looking beautiful begins with confidence and you can’t feel confident if you’re constantly fussing with a too short skirt. Good style is practical. Which brings me to my most crucial point: when you’re shopping, the most important things are the basics: material, comfort, fit.

Does the dress sit nicely just above the knees or is it a little short? Do the jeans fit snuggly around your hips or is your ass hanging out?

No matter how darling a spring ensemble, you’ll never wear it if it bears your butt every time you barely bend down. So no matter how strong the impulse, do not sacrifice functionality for aesthetics.  Practicality must come first.

The Beauty of Giving Things Away

Lately, I’ve been feeling inspired to revamp my closet. Already gave away a handful of ugly, tattered clothes I can’t bear to look at any more: those cheap polyester tops in black and navy, which were adorably cut- just made out of the wrong material; my beautiful China-print blue and ivory dress I got in Tahoe, which was darling but never fit quite right; that frightful black brief case that I loved so much that I used it pretty much everyday for 2 years.

Neatly sorting away my clothes into “for donation” bins, I realized something: it’s astonishing how good it feels to get rid of things. We often don’t think about it, but staring at that hideous cardigan we despise does tremendous damage to the psyche. Our inner aesthete needs beauty and is deeply disturbed by anything unappealing or offensive.

That purple 60s print wrap dress that never fit in the bust and reminds us of an unfortunate impulse buy.

That uncomfortable, itchy sweater filled with holes.

Our outward surroundings determine our inner peace.

If we’re surrounded by raggedy, misshapen clothing that has never fit us quite right, if everyday when we step into our closets, we’re assaulted by an onslaught of regrettable choices and impulse buys, we’ll feel shitty indeed.

But if we make a conscious effort to cultivate a sense of order and elegance by simplifying our wardrobe, we’ll feel happier and more confident. Plus I’m a firm believer that you can only attract new things into your life when you discard the old. So get rid of some of your worn, outdated clothes and make room for all the lovely pieces you’ll soon own.

 

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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