Inspirations from...more from the 1940s

My previous article (Inspirations from the 1940s: Shoes) showed you how you could be inspired by the 1940s through your shoes, and now I will show you how you can find that splendid 1940s style dress to accompany them.

More so than ever before, the events of history had a direct effort on the fashion of the day. The war brought with it fabric shortages, Utility wear, and coupons. Colours, patterns, materials and tailoring were all influenced by the war effort, whether it meant shorter skirts (to save on fabric), aeroplane print (to display your patriotism), or a sequined bolero (as sequins were not rationed).

Suits in the 1940s were heavily influenced by the military style. Suits were simple in style but beautifully tailored. They were made to be wearable and durable. For perhaps the first time, women were wearing clothing that were cut along the same line as men's.

This original 1940s jacket from Denise Brain is unusual in that it is made from wool, a material that was needed for soldier's uniforms and blankets.  

A cropped blazer in this style still works perfectly today. I quite like this take on it from Dorothy Perkins.


Apparently many women used colour to show their patriotism during the war years. Names like 'flag red' and ' air force blue' were used to describe fabrics, and patterns such as stars and stripes, maps, battleships and flags were worn proudly to show support for the troops.

This 1940s dress has a cute sailor man print and even has the word 'Honey Bun' written all over it. It is available from Timeless Vixen.

Nautical has remained a massive fashion trend, always tending to rear its head when the sun starts shining. Get your fix of sailor-inspired clothing with a classic Vivien of Holloway pencil dress.


Another print trend of the 1940s (stemming largely from California) was tropical prints, particularly Hawaiian and Mexican. I think this is my personal favourite inspiration from this era, and I own a number of dresses that get dusted down each summer.

A cute original 1940s original two piece from Vintage Fan Attic  illustrates the playfulness of these prints perfectly.

The Whirling Turban has to offer some of the best in reproduction1940s inspired tropical print dresses and trouser suits. If you haven't seen their website you must take an immediate peek, with the credit card ready!

It was in the 1940s that the little black dress became a staple part of a woman's wardrobe. Rayon was often used, as a replacement for silk, and sequins were used in abundance (as they weren't affected by rationing). The long length popular in the 1930s returned, and strapless offered a way of saving on fabric while still being glamorous.

The LBD is a fail safe way to dress for almost any occasion, and the high street and cat walk are always full of them.

I immediately clocked this Rachel Gilbert dress from Net-A-Porter as the perfect modern equivalent. Figure skimming and rammed full of sequins – ready for a red carpet somewhere!


 In a complete contrast, after the war had ended, the infamous New Look from Christian Dior reversed the idea of rationing and restraint. Skirts were full, waists tiny. The dresses were so structured and boned that they could stand unaided. The war was over, and fashion was celebrating.

Fabrics and prints began to be more available, and I love this from the 40s/50s from Youth Step


This Vivienne Westwood dress may not be an exact replica, but it definitely has the New Look feel of the late 1940s, with a seriously modern twist. Stunning.

I have outlined five key trends from the 1940s here, but the 1940s was a fascinating period of time for fashion, and there are plenty of other elements I could have mentioned! The first half of the decade was dominated by war, while the second half fought back with luxury, print and couture.