The fashion of the 1940's, in the UK at least, was very much dominated by WWII. With the introduction of rationing and many imported items being unavailable, the 'make do and mend' ethic was in full force. From curtains to eggs, everything had an alternative (and sometimes bizarre) use, and this was certainly evident in fashion too. Many items were repaired and re-worked until they literally fell apart, and even then they were repurposed for dusters or hankies! Part of the charm of vintage 1940s clothing is seeing how many alterations and repairs you can spot - sometimes there are more patches than garment. However, a few distinct fashion styles emerged in the 40's, marking it out as an era of elegance and glamour despite the war.
With the menfolk off at war, women adopted a more masculine style, evident in the wide shoulders, nipped in waist and sharp tailored look which became so synonymous with this era. Women wanted to be seen as important and useful as men, whilst maintaining a glamourous edge for their loved ones and sweethearts when they came home. No woman would be seen out without her hat and gloves, and in the absence of silk for stockings, gravy browning worked a treat to create that distinct seam line at the back of the leg! The 1940s is often viewed as a really important time for women as they kept the home front running, with landgirls keeping food in the fields and machine girls keeping the factories ticking over. Meticulous hairstyles were kept neat and tidy under headscarves, and cherry red lipstick brightened up an otherwise makeup free face. By the late 1940s, Hollywood film stars like Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall dominated the fashion scene, and paved the way for the softer, girlier fashions of the 50's.
To recreate this look like I have done here, you don't necessarily need to invest in vintage 40's clothing, which is not only expensive, but hard to find in modern sizes too. The 1980s copied the 40's look to a certain extent, and as you can see from the 80's dress here, a delicate cotton print, nipped in waist and shoulder pads give just the right shape. Accessorise the look with a veiled hat (another 80s find) and perhaps a real or fake fur stole (a real fashion must-have in the 40's) As I mentioned earlier, no outfit was complete without a pair of gloves - check out these lovely cream crochet ones. You can buy modern versions of these on the high st, or scour your local charity shop. Finally, an elegant snakeskin handbag and low heeled, lace up shoes finish the look. These are both original 1940s ones, and can be found on ebay or your nearest vintage shop (Urban Village of course!) All of these items are available in our ebay shop in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out.