Forties & fifties dress-up costumes

Written by catherine ketley
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Forties & fifties dress-up costumes
Rock the party with your fifties costume. (Getty Thinkstock)

The ever-popular retro look provides lots of opportunities for dressing in style without splashing the cash. Parties with forties or fifties themes allow you to adapt clothes already in your wardrobe or create new costumes from charity shop finds. Fashion from these decades ranges from practical war-effort dungarees to the flirty rock and roll circular skirt. Keep it simple with tailored suits or go glam with Hollywood-inspired couture. Whatever your choice, the vintage look is charming and flattering.

The war effort

Women were liberated from the house during the war as they took on traditional male roles while men were overseas. Recreate field-and-factory forties fashion by sporting overalls or wide-leg denims and a workshirt. Roll your hair in large curls and tie back with a bandana or scarf. Wear short white socks with flat peep-toe sandals or plimsolls. Keep make-up simple except for exaggerated arched eyebrows drawn in with eye pencil and flat matte scarlet lips.

Post-war glam

The end of the war heralded a period of hope for the future. Dress design echoed this, using more richly patterned fabric on fuller cuts. The luxury of materials like crepe-de-chine and rayon were a direct contrast to thrifty wartime cotton drill. Dress up in a bold floral cocktail dress in a synthetic material. A Peter Pan collar, nipped-in waist and swing skirt add forties' authenticity. Glam it up with seamed stockings, wedge shoes and a faux fur wrap.

Fifties fun

The end of rationing meant that women could have fun with fashion. Dior's New Look introduced pencil skirts, peplums and pretty, feminine shapes. Copy Audrey Hepburn by teaming capri pants with a short, striped boat-necked sweater and flat dolly shoes. Or choose a Marilyn Monroe-style beaded evening gown with a full skirt, wear patent kitten-heel courts and carry a glittering evening bag. Use online images of the stars to style your hair and make-up to match the look.

Teenage dream

The ever-youthful fifties teenage style is one of the easiest and most popular dress-up costumes. Swirling circular skirts are easy to make. Cut a large circle of fabric, iron on a large motif of a poodle or horse and gather it into the waist with a wide elasticated belt. Pull it on over a three-quarter length sleeved leotard or T-shirt and layers of net underskirts. Wear ballet pumps, short white socks and tie your hair up in a high ponytail.

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