We highlight the key moments for 1940s fashion

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

When it comes to 1940s fashion, Dior’s groundbreaking new silhouette redefined women’s post-war style and revived 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!’ Imagine if every designer could knock together something like this for their debut?
1940s fashion

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.

1940s fashion

Ava Gardner

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.

1940s fashion

Bette Davis

Doris Day’s nautical look

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…
1940s fashion

Doris Day

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.

1940s fashion

Rita Hayworth

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.

1940s fashion

Katharine Hepburn

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).

1940s fashion

Joan Crawford

Grace Kelly’s updo

Princess Grace of Monaco always looked flawlessly chic – even as a teen model back in 1947.

1940s fashion

Grace Kelly

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.

1940s fashion

Ginger Rogers

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.

1940s fashion

Barbara Stanwyck

Rita Hayworth’s Gilda dress

This famous black satin gown from Rita Hayworth’s striptease scene in Gilda set tongues a-wagging in 1946.

1940s fashion

Rita Hayworth

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.

1940s fashion

Ingrid Bergman

Rita Hayworth’s bikini

Here’s our Ibiza style inspiration sorted. Rita Hayworth works a printed bikini, huge sun hat and peep-toe heels. If only we looked this put-together by the pool.
1940s fashion

Rita Hayworth

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?

1940s fashion

Ladies in Paris

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.

1940s fashion

Ann Sheridan

Bikini briefs

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.

1940s fashion


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!

1940s fashion

Lucille Ball

Brenda Marshall’s headwear

Pleats, zips, ruching, AND statement headwear? So many trends and an outstanding example of 1940s drapery.

1940s fashion

Brenda Marshall

Land Girls

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.

1940s fashion

Land girl in Southern England

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…

1940s fashion

Hedi Lamarr

Lana Turner’s headwear

Another stunning shot, another head piece. Lana’s pastel wardrobe for The Postman Always Rings Twice is simply stunning.

1940s fashion

Lana Turner

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.

1940s fashion

Lauren Bacall

Barbara Stanwyck in leopard print

Barbara rocks a tailored pastel blue suit in 1940 with a few pops of leopard print to accessorise. Lovely.

1940s fashion

Barbara Stanwyck

37. Ginger Rogers’ official portraitGinger knew all about the power of embellishment. This was her official portrait taken by Paramount Studios.

1940s fashion

Ginger Rogers

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.

1940s fashion

Olivia de Havilland

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?

1940s fashion

Claudette Colbert


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