Despite the hardships of WWII, the 1940s were still a brilliant decade for fashion. Hollywood's Golden Age stars – from Rita Hayworth to Katharine Hepburn – dazzled in gorgeous gowns, while women across the West embraced a more utilitarian yet chic look. Here, we highlight the best of the decade's style in 40 stunning images...
1. Joan Crawford, 1940s
Check out Joan Crawford's shoulder pads and decadent jewels – now we know where Joan Collins got her 1980s style inspiration from. A perfectly-tailored peplum finishes off her sharp look. Power dressing at its very best.
This was a groundbreaking move in fashion to redfine women's post-war styles and revive France's fashion industry after a difficult few years. The collection – featuring gorgeous full skirts and waist-cinching jackets – was Dior's first and became forever known as the New Look after Harper's editor Carmel Snow said in 1947: 'It's such a new look!'.
3. Eva Gardner, 1944
Eva Gardner was one of the biggest film starts of the decade. Here she is in 1944, showcasing the beauty of a belted waist.
4. Bette Davis, 1943
Bette Davis works a blue gown in this seductive shot, taken in 1943. So. Hot.
5. Doris Day, 1948
Doris Day shows us how to work the nautical trend during the filming of Romance On The High Seas in 1948. Remind us to drape our blazer over our shoulders on our next boat trip...
6. Rita Hayworth, 1940
The actress embraces androgynous style in a pair of wide-legged trousers and monochrome flats in 1940. Our new workwear wardrobe = sorted.
7. Katharine Hepburn, 1940
Katharine rocks a gingham dress and cinched-in waist on the set of The Philadelphia Story in 1940. Note the Peter Pan collar.
8. Joan Crawford, 1946
She's done it again. Joan shows us how to do floral prints and statement jewels. Absolutely stunning.
9. Grace Kelly, 1947
Princess Grace looks flawlessly chic even as a teen model in 1947.
10. Ginger Rogers, 1942
That wide-brimmed hat and elegant skirt suit made Ginger Rogers look effortlessly pulled-together in 1942. Just check out those leather driving gloves – you couldn't get more chic. If only we looked this good on our way to the airport. Love.
11. Barbara Stanwyck, 1941
Embellishment and huge cocktail jewels made Barbara Stanwyck look like a total screen goddess in 1941.
12. Rita Hayworth, 1946
This famous black gown from Rita Hayworth's striptease scene in Gilda set tongues wagging in 1946.
13. Ingrid Bergman, 1942
We'd wear those midi-heeled sandals RIGHT now. Check out a flawless Ingrid Bergman working the monochrome look on the set of Casablanca in 1942.
14. Bette Davis, 1940s
Bette Davis knew how to rock clashing brights, topping off her look off with a slick of red lipstick.
15. Rita Hayworth, 1940s
Here's our next look for Ibiza sorted. Rita Hayworth works a printed bikini, huge sun hat and peep-toe heels. If only we looked this put-together by the pool.
16. Ladies In Paris, 1947
These midi-length skirts couldn't be more on trend for AW13. Have French women EVER been out of style?
17. Swimsuit Competition, Paris, 1949
These Parisian girls showcased the latest swimsuit trends way back in 1949. We're not so sure about all those ruffles, but we NEED to get our hands on that monochrome swimsuit.
18. Christian Dior Model, 1947
Has a fur coat ever looked so glamorous? Totally loving those pleats.
19. Ava Gardner, 1940s
More monochrome. A first hint of statement prints. You can't go wring with a 1940s tea dress.
20. Betty Hutton, 1945
Betty rocks a halterneck bikini and wedges witha turban-style headband. No wonder she's smiling. Hot.
21. Ann Sheridan, 1942
Ann works the metallics trend in this decadent high-neck gown. We could totally see this on the red carpet at next year's Oscars.
22. Reard Fashion Show, 1946
23. Betty Grable, 1940s
We love the bright acid yellow of actress Betty Grable's bathing suit. So on trend. And. That. HAIR.
24. Lucille Ball, 1940s
25. Ladies Sunbathing In London, 1942
26. Brenda Marshall, 1940s
27. Models On Bond Street, London, 1942
28. Land Girl In Southern England, 1944
British women headed to the fields during WWII in dungarees and buttoned-up shirts. We love how this Land Girl has cinched-in her waist with a belt. If only we looked this stylish when doing chores.
29. Hedi Lamarr, 1941
30. Lana Turner, 1946
Another stunning shot, another turban. Lana's pastel wardrobe for The Postman Always Rings Twice is simply stunning.
31. Lana Turner, 1943
...and she knew all about the importance of diamonds.
32. Lauren Bacall, 1944
Lauren looks flawless in this thigh-split satin gown in 1944. We could totally see Angelina Jolie wearing this vintage wonder.
33. Barbara Stanwyck, 1940
Barbara rocks a tailored pastel blue suit in 1940 with a pop of leopard print. Lovely.
34. Betty Grable, 1943
World War II pin-up Betty's white bathing suit and understated gold jewellery is totally chic. And just look at those curves.
35. Claudette Colbert, 1941
Dear designers, can someone please re-make this? French actress Claudette rocks a gorgeous striped bikini in 1941. Want.
36. Doris Day, 1945
We just love Doris' preppy chic style and her gold wedges.
37. Ginger Rogers, 1942
Ginger knew all about the power of embellishment. This was her official portrait taken by Paramount Studios.
38. Ida Lupino, 1940s
Actress-turned-director Ida rocks a printed crop top and matching skirt. And we just love her cigarette holder – so sophisticated.
39. Olivia de Havilland, 1941
The crop top was a big look in the early forties, too. We adore Olivia's impossibly glamorous jewels.
40. Claudette Colbert, 1942
Claudette looks fabulously decadent in a floor-length pink gown, while filming The Palm Beach Story in 1942. Haven't we seen Cheryl Cole rocking that elegant hood?