How to capture the glamour of 1940s fashion

Written by sally murphy
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How to capture the glamour of 1940s fashion
The looks of the 1940s translated from the screen to the streets. (Picture Post/Valueline/Getty Images)

Fashion in the 1940s was so distinctive, vibrant and glamorous that the look still lives on. Movie stars and average women alike managed to bring a little elegance and style to their everyday outfits, even during war times. Whether for a costume party or just to add some extra style to your existing wardrobe, capture the '40s by focusing on interesting details and creating a strong silhouette with your clothes and accessories.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Watch historical films and read magazines to absorb popular styles and find inspiration. Movies from the '40s feature every style of clothing, from house dresses to evening gowns. Many antique shops sell authentic magazines from the era, which offer valuable fashion insights.

  2. 2

    Make a checklist. Before you purchase new clothes, look through your wardrobe for items that evoke '40s styles and take notes. Clothes should have strong silhouettes with rich colours like navy blue, dark brown or burgundy. Party dresses or evening gowns feature soft lines with materials such as taffeta or voile. Skirts and dresses should be knee-length and tailored, while jackets require defined shoulders.

    How to capture the glamour of 1940s fashion
    Look for gauzy scarves and accents that add '40s glamour. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Shop at vintage and thrift stores for hidden retro gems -- many specialise in vintage clothes and accessories. Keep an eye out for items that have a '40s sensibility even if they're not from the era. For instance, you may find a contemporary string of pearls or boxy jacket.

  4. 4

    Wear suitable accents and accessories. Whether with a vintage outfit or as an accent to everyday clothes, accents evoke a glamorous retro feel. For instance, a pair of sheer pantyhose, a skirt and high-heeled pumps with instep straps can evoke the era. Wear a pillbox hat and white kid gloves with your winter coat. Jewellery should be decorative and not too heavy, such as a Bakelite bracelet and simple earrings.

    How to capture the glamour of 1940s fashion
    Hats were fashionable in the 1940s. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)
  5. 5

    Cinch at the waist. Whether wearing a coat, skirt or dress, the '40s silhouette focused on a high, cinched waist. If your outfit doesn't have a sash, wear a thin, shiny leather belt in brown, black or navy and fasten it high on your natural waistline. Trousers were less common than skirts in the '40s, but a pair of tailored, high-waist trousers provides the cinched and sleek look of the era.

Tips and warnings

  • Have confidence, pride and poise. The glamour of the '40s depended on a polished and self-assured attitude. Women maintained good posture and held their heads high. Being aware of yourself and your body language will add to any outfit.
  • Ensure that you look well-groomed. Add a touch of matt red lipstick to your make-up routine and pencil your eyebrows. Keep your hair pinned back and lightly wavy, or worn in a structured up-do. Trim your nails and use classic red polish.

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