The key looks from the most decadent decade
Despite the hardships of WWII, the 1940s were still a brilliant decade for style – and 1930s fashion was a hard act to follow. It was a decade of trailblazing styles and new silhouettes, and many of the styles we’re still supporting today. From Joan Crawford to Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth and Doris day, we chart the era’s best and most iconic looks that paved the way for 1950s fashion.
Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads
Check out Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads and decadent jewels above – now we know where she got her Dynasty inspo from. A perfectly-tailored peplum finishes off her sharp look. Power dressing at its very best, she was an unforgettable 1940s fashion icon.
Christian Dior’s New Look
Ava Gardner’s neckerchief
Ava Gardner was one of the decade’s most successful (and beautiful) actresses. Here she is in 1944, showcasing the beauty of a belted waist and a chic neckerchief; both of which were key 1940s fashion trends.
Bette Davis in blue
An original 1940s fashion pin-up, Bette Davis works a blue gown in this seductive shot, taken in 1943, perfectly paired with a full red lip.
Doris Day’s nautical look
Rita Hayworth’s wide legged trousers
The actress embraces androgynous style in a pair of wide-legged trousers and monochrome flats in 1940. Our new workwear wardrobe = sorted.
Katharine Hepburn in gingham
Katharine rocks a gingham dress and cinched-in waist on the set of The Philadelphia Story in 1940. Note the Peter Pan collar, a trend that was also a big 1960s fashion talking point and still resonates today.
Joan Crawford in floral prints
Joan does it again here, showing us how to work floral prints with some seriously statement jewels (no era did power florals quite like 1970s fashion, though).
Grace Kelly’s updo
Princess Grace of Monaco always looked flawlessly chic – even as a teen model back in 1947.
Ginger Rogers’ hat
That wide-brimmed hat and elegant skirt suit made Ginger Rogers look effortlessly pulled-together in 1942 – hat brims were now much bigger than the cloche styles of 1920s fashion. And check out those leather driving gloves – if only we looked this good on our way to the airport.
Barbara Stanwyck’s jewellery
Über-embellishment and major cocktail jewels made Barbara Stanwyck look like a total screen goddess in 1941, along with her perfectly curled ‘do.
Rita Hayworth’s Gilda dress
This famous black satin gown from Rita Hayworth’s striptease scene in Gilda set tongues a-wagging in 1946.
Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
We’d wear those block-heeled sandals today. Check out the flawless Ingrid Bergman working a perfect ‘jet set’ look in Casablanca.
Rita Hayworth’s bikini
Mid length skirts
These midi-length skirts couldn’t be more on trend, and these women in Paris demonstrate the timeless look perfectly. Have French women EVER been out of style?
Ann Sheridan in metallics
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.
Bikini briefs in the forties were HUGE (quite literally) and always teamed with an, ahem, on-point structured top. These gorgeous models perfect their catwalk struts at the Reard show in 1946.
Lucille Ball’s updo
This actress knew how to offset her bright red barnet and sparkling blue eyes with a pair of statement earrings. And let’s talk about that pre-Photoshop complexion – flawless!
Brenda Marshall’s headwear
British women headed to the fields during WWII in dungarees and buttoned-up shirts. The Land Girls still kept things stylish though, cinching-in their waists with classic belts.
Hedi Lamarr’s floral corsage
Actress Hedi rocks a huge floral corsage for Come Live With Me. So this is where Carrie Bradshaw got her inspiration from…
Lana Turner’s headwear
Another stunning shot, another head piece. Lana’s pastel wardrobe for The Postman Always Rings Twice is simply stunning.
Lauren Bacall’s thigh split gown
Lauren looks flawless in this thigh-split satin gown in 1944. We could totally see Angelina Jolie wearing this vintage wonder.
Barbara Stanwyck in leopard print
Barbara rocks a tailored pastel blue suit in 1940 with a few pops of leopard print to accessorise. Lovely.
Olivia de Havilland’s crop top
The crop top was a big look in the early forties, too. We adore Olivia’s impossibly glamorous jewels.
Claudette Colbert in Palm Beach Story
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 an elegant cowl hood just like this in a certain music video?