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The 1940s - 40s fashion - Click

STYLING: ~ 1940s ~ 40s fashion


Women’s fashion in the 1940s combined style and practicality to achieve a lasting elegance. With jackets shorter thanks to rationing, the peplum became hugely popular, helping to narrow the hips while showing off a trim waist. It was also common for women to re-use their coats from the 1930s, altering them slightly by cutting off the bottom of the coat and hemming it to knee length. Classic cuts with no fabric excess were key, often with military influences ~ accordingly wide lapels or double breasted buttoning & shoulder pads became popular styles.


As women often lived by the ‘make-do-and-mend” mantra during the war years, men’s coats became a popular choice, the oversized, draped style became quite fashionable, as did the swing coat, with women occasionally reusing an old coat belt or other belt to draw in the waist, while others enjoyed the free flowing swing cut.



Despite restrictions on designers and rationing of materials, the 1940s has played a key role in fashion history and despite the wartime limitations incredible trends still emerged from these wartime years, and many of these styles are quintessential pieces in the modern woman’s wardrobe today. ~ 40s fashion


The 1940s - 40s fashion




40s Dance — The Magic of Fred Astaire & Rita Hayworth



The songs and dance numbers are of from the 1942 Columbia Pictures movie "You Were Never Lovelier" with Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Xavier Cugat, Adolphe Menjou. Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Directed by William A. Seiter



Fred Astaire & Rita Hayworth, A little bit of 40s tap dance.



A musical act from the movie You'll Never Get Rich. You'll Never Get Rich is a 1941 Hollywood musical comedy film with a wartime theme starring Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Cliff Nazarro, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The film was directed by Sidney Lanfield.


This video has a more late 40s dance feel.




Stormy Weather (1943) - The Nicholas Brothers 

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To Have and Have Not (1944)


To Have and Have Not is a 1944 romance-war-adventure film. The movie was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, and Lauren Bacall in her first film. Although it is nominally based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway, the story was extensively altered for the film.


"I used to tremble from nerves so badly that the only way I could hold my head steady was to lower my chin practically to my chest and look up at Bogie. That was the beginning of The Look." (L.Bacall)


To Have and Have Not (1944) - Humphrey Bogart - Lauren Bacall



To Have and Have Not (1944) - Humphrey Bogart - Lauren Bacall



To Have and Have Not (1944) - Humphrey Bogart - Lauren Bacall




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40s Fashion Vintage Hollywood

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1940s-40s-1940-fashion-1942-40s.jpgThe 1940s

Please see video below....


Three songs and dances from the 1942 Columbia Pictures movie


"You Were Never Lovelier" with Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Xavier Cugat, Adolphe Menjou

Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Directed by William A. Seiter


Together, the three videos contain these songs and dances:

"Chiu Chiu": Cugat's band performs this showpiece samba with music and lyrics by Nicanor Molinare sung and danced by Lina Romay, Miguelito Valdés and chorus in front of Astaire.

"Dearly Beloved": Kern's ballad became a major hit for Astaire -- who sings it here -- and it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Shortly after, Hayworth (singing dubbed by Nan Wynn) reprises the song with a brief but erotic dance, alone in her bedroom.



"Audition Dance": "One of my best solos" was Astaire's verdict on his first solo routine on the theme of Latin dance, celebrated for its comic inventiveness and dexterity. Astaire's number also inspired Jerome Robbins' solo Latin dance in the latter's first ballet Fancy Free, created in 1944.



"I'm Old Fashioned": A Kern melody, with Mercer's lyrics mimed by Hayworth, inspires Astaire's second Latin romantic partnered dance, and one of his best known. This dance was chosen by Jerome Robbins as the centerpiece to his ballet of the same name, created by him for the New York City Ballet in 1983, as a tribute to Astaire.



"The Shorty George": Required more rehearsal time than all other dances together. A synthesis of American Swing or Jive, and virtuoso tap dancing by Astaire and Hayworth, both in top form and exuding a sense of fun in an arrangement by Lyle "Spud" Murphy. The title refers to a popular dance step of the time, attributed to George "Shorty" Snowdon a champion African-American dancer at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom and reputed inventor of the Lindy Hop or Jitterbug dance styles. Here, as in the "Pick Yourself Up" and "Bojangles of Harlem" numbers from Swing Time, Kern belied his claim that he couldn't write in the Swing style.



"Wedding in the Spring": Overly sweet and soppy number performed tongue-in-cheek by Cugat's band.



"You Were Never Lovelier": A Kern melody, sung by Astaire to Hayworth, with a celebratory dance reprise at the film's end, initiated by an armour-suited Astaire falling off a horse, and shedding his knight's armour, only to reveal himself in white tie and tails. According to Astaire, the original dance number that followed the song was cut from the film after the preview as the studio felt it "held up the story".




"These Orchids": Cugat's band provides an orchestral serenade in rumba style to Hayworth outside her bedroom window with this Kern melody.




1940s Fashion

Vintage Hollywood


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From the bestselling author of Birdsong comes Charlotte Gray, the remarkable story of a young Scottish woman who becomes caught up in the effort to liberate Occupied France from the Nazis while pursuing a perilous mission of her own.

1943. The World is at war. Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman is parachuted behind enemy lines in southern France. Officially, she has been recruited by the British government to liase with the local Resistance group. Unofficially, she is searching for her lover, missing in action. As Charlotte becomes more deeply involved with the Resistance fighters, she realises that her love for France and its people will change her life forever.

Charlotte Gray, Set in -


The 1940s


Quote - Psychiatrist: Of these three, which in your view is the most important: Faith, hope or love?

Charlotte Gray: Hope.



Quote - [last lines] Charlotte Gray: There's something I've been meaning to tell you.

Julien Levade: What?


Charlotte Gray: My name: Charlotte Gray.







Charlotte Gray, a little taste of the movie



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The 1940s


Gilda (1946) is a black-and-white film noir directed by Charles Vidor. It stars Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth in her signature role as the ultimate femme fatale. The film was noted for cinematographer Rudolph Mate's lush photography, costume designer Jean Louis' wardrobe for Hayworth (particularly for the dance numbers), and choreographer Jack Cole's staging of "Put the Blame on Mame" and "Amado Mio", sung by Anita Ellis.



Quote - Gilda: I can never get a zipper to close. Maybe that stands for something, what do you think?




Dress to Impress, 1940s Fashion - 1940 dresses and 1940s fancy dress

40s Fashion Vintage Hollywood - 1940 fashion


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1940s-40s-1940-FILM-011.jpgThe 1940s


The Edge Of Love is, at heart, the story of a love triangle. In the middle of it is the poet Dylan Thomas (played here by Matthew Rhys), and it's he who finds himself in love with two women. On one hand, there's his childhood sweetheart Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley), and on the other there's his wife, Caitlin Thomas (Sienna Miller). Throw in Caitlin's husband, William (Cillian Murphy), and you have the basis of a complicated period romantic drama. The best parts of The Edge Of Love prove to be in the build up, with the strong production values really allowed director John Maybury to build up his characters, and get across the setting of a war-torn London.



William Killick: No harm will ever come to you. Not from me, not from anyone else. And while I'm here, no word of mine will ever hurt you.


Vera Phillips: Sounds like a vow.


Vera Phillips: You don't even see me, do you? Dylan! All you've got is stories in your head. Words. And I have to feel real. William... makes me real.


1940 dresses 

Vintage Hollywood


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Fallen Angel is a 1945 black-and-white film noir directed by Otto Preminger, with cinematography by Joseph LaShelle, who had also worked with Preminger on Laura a year before. The film features Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and Charles Bickford. It was the last film Faye made as a major Hollywood star, and she did not make another film until State Fair (1962).



The 1940s




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 The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater, their mother at the piano and father on drums.


By 1940, the Nicholas Brothers  were in Hollywood and for several decades alternated between movies, nightclubs, concerts, Broadway, television, and extensive tours of Latin America, Africa, and Europe.


Stormy Weather is a 1943 American musical film produced and released by 20th Century Fox. This musical was considered to be one of the best of its day, with electric dancing and stunning acrobatics.

The 1940s



40s dance - Timeless 1940s dance


Nicholas Brothers - Read more

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”


~ Eleanor Roosevelt


“Los Angeles was the kind of place where everybody was from somewhere else and nobody really droppped anchor. It was a transient place. People drawn by the dream, people running from the nightmare. Twelve million people and all of them ready to make a break for it if necessary. Figuratively, literally, metaphorically -- any way you want to look at it -- everbody in L.A. keeps a bag packed. Just in case.” 


~ Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict


The 1940s


Background process plate produced for an unidentified feature film, shot from an automobile driving through Bunker Hill and downtown Los Angeles.


“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”



~ Frank Lloyd Wright


40s Fashion Vintage Hollywood - 1940 fashion


Dress to Impress, 1940s Fashion - 1940 dresses and 1940s fancy dress

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New York in the 1940s

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New York in the 1940s....

This is a compilation of videos showing how the city looked in 40s. You can see the huge development in the city. This video shows famous places and landmarks of New York such as: Empire and Chrysler buildings, Washington Square park, 5th avenue, Broadway, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Central Park.


The 1940s


In the middle 1940s... I heard everyone live. Painting, the theater; everything was happening. It was an exciting time when New York was the place to be.


~ Bill DixonIn the middle 1940s... I heard everyone live. Painting, the theater; everything was happening. It was an exciting time when New York was the place to be.

~ Bill Dixon



40s Fashion Vintage Hollywood - 1940 fashion

Dress to Impress, 1940s Fashion - 1940 dresses and 1940s fancy dress

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40s Fashion - Hollywood Style


Hollywood ~ a word that conjures up the modern day film industry while forever evoking memories of a bygone era:  the Golden Age of the Silver Screen, decorated by the eternal movie stars who epitomised glamour, style and sophistication and who defined 40s fashion.


Rita-Hayworth-40s-1940s-1940.jpgThe end of silent film in the late 1920s had seen the dawn of Hollywood’s Golden Age which took hold in the 30s, ushering in an era of prolific film making which continued to sashay its way through the 40s with sustained style and creativity, carried aloft by the screen goddesses, the vamps and the sultry sirens. These iconic movie stars mesmerised with their performances and epitomised 1940s fashion with their memorable looks and screen personalities:  Dorothy Lamour, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Ginger Rogers, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Vivien Leigh, Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr...what a fabulous rollcall. In 1940 fashion would be defined by these film stars, and in the following years, until the 50s, their iconic wardrobes would influence a generation of women recovering from war torn austerity.


Despite the hardships of World War II and the utilitarian chic generally espoused by the West, Hollywood stars dazzled in 40s fashion which set the template for so many classic shapes and styles that have become timeless and continue to influence today’s designers and culture. In 1940 fashion, movie star’s hairstyles and make-up, and even their shoes and handbags, were copied by women everywhere.


The 40s fashion silhouette accentuated the female form ~ skirts were raised from ankle to knee-length while broad padded shoulders, nipped-in waists and slim lines became typical with square jackets usually worn over blouses or shirts. Later, Dior’s groundbreaking ‘New Look’ collection (1947) would feature more waist-cinching and gorgeously full skirts.


b2ap3_thumbnail_veronica-lake-40s-fashon.jpgHollywood embraced this and more ~ elegance, glamour and sophistication meant dreamy cocktail dresses and fabulous evening gowns (full or tight), emphasising a sensual silhouette with, often, a dramatic open back. Stoles or cover ups were the order of the day (and night), accessorised with elegant, long gloves in satin, silk, lace or velvet ~ and, of course, diamonds (the bigger the better!). Waves, side partings and ‘peekaboo’ hairstyles ~ à la Veronica Lake ~ were widely imitated. 


40s film stars epitomised glamour, elegance and allure, often with a seductive dark side. The wardrobe of the ‘femme fatale’ always had an evening edge, while those who populated the era’s beloved ‘film noir’ dressed to kill ~ courtesy of designers who understood the needs of actresses and their characters.


Designer Edith Head understood Barbara Stanwyck’s ‘femme fatale’ in Double Indemnity (1944) and dressed her to impress in expensive jewellery and clothes, classily cut (as if to conceal her amoral intentions) ~ and in a silk jumpsuit, 30 years before it would be interpreted and restyled by Halston.


Irene Letz became MGM’s head of costume design in 1943 and turned the antagonist/protagonist colour code on its head by dressing Lana Turner in (almost) all white for her turn as the sultry seductress in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Her stunning wardrobe and iconic outfits were all about the form, with clothes that framed Lana’s face and figure to perfection. Her appearance in a turban, high waisted shorts and heels became one of the best known movie entrances ever.


40s-fashion-1940s-fashion-lauren-bacall.jpgLauren Bacall, one of the defining style icons of the age, epitomised ice-cool chic and effortless elegance in whatever she wore. In To Have and Have Not (1944), she blended elegant separates with fashion-forward menswear-inspired tailoring that led the way in androgynous dressing, while the evening dress she wore was overtly glamorous ~ slinky floor length black satin, split to the thigh, with defined shoulders to create a structured silhouette and a subtly exposed midriff. Just exquisite.

Another breathtakingly beautiful gown was worn by Loretta Young in He Stayed for Breakfast (1940) ~ a vision of a floorsweeper in black lace that could effortlessly convert to modern day style as a wonderfully wearable and glamorous vampish creation.loretta-young-1940s-fashion_20140123-192630_1.jpg


Perhaps one of the most iconic garments from 1940s fashion and Hollywood is that dress worn by Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946); designed by Jean Louis, the strapless long black satin sheath with side split ~ paired with long, elegant evening gloves ~ has helped to consolidate and define the image of the ‘femme fatale’ while remaining a universal reference for classic fashion in cinema.Claudette-Colbert1940s-fashion-40s-fashion_20140123-195935_1.jpg

Indeed, so much of what we recognise in today’s trends and styling has come directly from 40s fashion and Hollywood:

Androgynous (Katharine Hepburn opted to wear trousers rather than skirts, a statement that ultimately changed the perception of how women should dress ~ and was echoed in the movies to such stylish effect by other luminous stars such as Lauren Bacall)

Belted waists

Crop tops (a very big look in early 1940 fashion)

Decadent jewels, huge cocktail rings (real and imitation)

Floral prints and tea dresses

High waisted shorts

Huge floral corsages (from Carrie Bradshaw via Hedy Lamarr)

Metallics, midi length skirts and monochrome (the latter, worked so well by Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, became a staple of 40s fashion)



Pleats, zips, ruching

Preppy chic and Peter Pan collars

Shoulder pads (power dressing’s been around for some time!)

Statement headwear

Tailored swimwear

Wedges and wide legged trousers

... and Claudette Colbert looked fabulously decadent in a floor-length hooded pink gown while filming The Palm Beach Story in 1942 ~ a look that has since been given a contemporary spin by, amongst others, Kylie Minogue and Cheryl Cole.



Like a fine wine, original 40s fashion is a superb vintage which is as desirable today as ever ~ thanks in no small part to the Hollywood icons who lit up the screen and whose timeless beauty and style continues to influence today’s collections and be justifiably referenced in modern trends.




40s Hollywood, The magic of Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall




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The 1940s were undoubtedly defined by the hardships and austerity of World War II and by the re-adjustment of the post-war years ~ and fashion was no exception.


Europe, and especially Paris, had always been the centre of fashion and had been a great (if not the main) influence on styles and trends, particularly in America. During the war however, many of the Parisian fashion houses were forced to close and the stylish Parisienne and her couture fashion was slowly being replaced with a new definition of what is was to be a young woman: robust and independent with a more active and demanding life.


This sea change in the perception of women’s changing, and increasingly independent, roles during the war years, and how they had to adapt to the new mode of austerity, was felt everywhere, particularly in the shortage of clothing. Fewer colours were available (chemical dyes were needed for explosives) so clothing colours became lighter. Due to fabric restrictions, hemlines on 1940 dresses crept upward in both evening wear and day wear, the latter of which was made more and more using substitute materials whenever possible (e.g. viscose and rayon) ~ and waistlines started to be more defined as again fabric was scarce. Materials such as silk, nylon and elastics were hard to find, and wool and leather were also hard to source as they had to be used for uniforms ~ shoes, and even metal for buttons and clasps, were also scarce. Utility clothing in the UK became regulatory ~ garments were slim cut and it became illegal to embellish 1940 dresses with extra embroidery, buttons, or pockets.


The UK also introduced ‘Make-Do-and-Mend’, with more sewing at home and outdated or worn fashions being remade into useable garments. Even Hollywood’s studio designers had to follow suit by conserving fabric: “No pockets, no pleats, the less material the better” even on a 1940s fancy dress.1940-dresses-5.jpg


1940-dresses-6.jpgDespite the imposition of utilitarian chic and the rationing of fabric, the subsequent metamorphosis of ‘function into fashionable’ found its way into fashion design ~ with super-stylish 1940 dresses being a perfect example. Dresses, and especially the 1940s fancy dress, kept for special occasions such as weddings and dances, were often showed off at special functions and dance halls, which were extremely popular in the 1940s. The seductive Latin rhythms of the Rumba etc were a soothing counterpoint to the turbulence of the war years, and the popular Big Band leaders helped spread the syncopated sound of swing, while the improvisational music of Jazz artists electrified audiences. Dresses with flowing skirts were essential to fashionable dance lovers ~ although these ‘swing dresses’, with their nipped-in waists and sweeping gored skirts, became more popular after the war ended and fabric became more readily available.


Wartime day dresses, including the 1940s fancy dress, fell to just above the knee and were practical yet demure: simple, elegant shirt dresses were accentuated with shoulder pads and belted waists, while pretty tea dresses, often in floral or gingham prints, featured short or capped sleeves with v-necks or sweetheart necklines ~ and the ‘princess line’ on 1940 dresses was softly shirred to gather under the bust and create a flattering shape.


1940-dresses-7.jpgAs 1940 dresses became shorter to save on fabric, sheath evening dresses replaced the long, flowing and more voluminous gowns of the 1930s and legs emerged as the most prominent and accentuated feature of the early 1940s figure. Additionally, as women's clothing adhered to slimmer designs all over, with tailoring cutting down on fabric where possible, shoulder pads became widely popular, to highlight the boxy look as a way to add interest to the silhouette. At this time the military look grew in popularity, and suits, tailored jackets and trousers, with a more masculine edge, was becoming a very sought after style option. This look took a cue from actresses such as Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich 1940-dresses-01.jpgwho had a significant impact on popular fashion and made the more androgynous look, including tuxedos and tails, very fashionable ~ a style that today is still copied by numerous designers including Yves Saint Laurent, and worn by many celebrities and models including Kate Moss.


The ‘Kitty Foyle’ dress (named after a Ginger Rogers character in her film of the same name) was characterised by dark fabric and contrasting light (often white) collar and cuffs on a shirtwaister with short or elbow length sleeves.  As a modest and practical style that could be easily copied or modified, it became popular during the wartime period and has rarely been out of fashion since. It featured in the 70s collections of Jill Richards (also a Hollywood actress in the 40s) and has been adapted by designers more recently in the neo-Victorian ‘gothic’ style, taking its themes of modesty, tradition and monochrome colours of a dark base with a light contrast and applying them with simpler lines.


Pencil dresses of the 40s hugged the shape, and highlighted hourglass figures, which were popular at the time, and evoked the cool allure of film noir and the femme fatale. These dresses were considered the ultimate in chic and sophistication, often with square necklines and deep collars, ruching under the bust and a vented skirt (Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham are just two of the modern designers to have incorporated this iconic 40s shape into their signature designs). 1940 dresses may have had to reflect the hardships of the decade, but their defining styles are as important and influential as ever.


1947-Dior-introduced-his-New-Look.jpgAs the world eased into the post-war era and restrictions started to relax, fashion began to reflect the changes. Designers began to look for more elegant and luxurious styles and in 1947 Dior introduced his ‘New Look’ collection as a direct response to wartime austerity. It was a dramatic change from the broad shoulders, boxy torsos and the shorter skirts of the war years. Dior’s revolutionary silhouette featured nipped in waists, peplums and full and fabulous frocks and skirts that flared out to mid-calf length in place of the ‘leggy’ look. The lavish use of fabric and the elegance of his designs appealed to post-war clientele and ensured Dior's meteoric rise to fame; it would reinstate the glamour that many women felt had been missing during the past decade.



Nowhere was the contrast with the 1940s dresses of wartime more clearly displayed than at the parties and balls of the rich and elite. Fabulous mansions, embassies and stately homes hosted glitzy gatherings surrounded by raised terraces, pergolas, pavilions, bath houses and statues that created the look and atmosphere of a glamorous film set. Here, the great and the good, the famous (and the infamous!) rubbed shoulders with celebrities, royalty and those at the upper echelons of a society still very much defined by finance and class ~ and with this a new style of elite 1940s fancy dress and fashion style was emerging for those who could afford or aspire to it.


Cocktail attire, popular in the late 40s, was billed as more elegant than daywear but a step down from formal wear; dresses were made in sumptuous fabrics such as velvet, taffeta, lace, brocade or rayon, often with long sleeves and a mid-calf or knee-length hem and featured elements such as a low-cut bodice, a short bolero jacket, or a frothy skirt enhanced with tulle or chiffon. Additions could include lace or velvet trims, scalloped hems, bows and other embellishments. Stunning satin halterneck prom dresses which enhanced the shoulders and back and caressed the figure oozed style and exuded confidence. Spaghetti straps were also seen on many a cocktail dress and these timeless features are still to be found in modern evening and party wear.


1940s-fancy-dress-40s.jpgAs ever, the stylish party set would embrace the fashions worn by the Hollywood stars who dazzled in 1940s fancy dresses ~ dreamy, softly draped evening gowns in silk and velvet and skimmed the floor, were the height of sophistication and elegance, embellished with beads, sequins and huge cocktail jewels, and accessorised with matching gloves and cover-ups. Decadent high necked gowns in sheens and metallics were another stunning option and often featured a draped, open back, while simpler styles were still the height of elegance, made from luxurious fabrics like chiffon with beads and sequins adorning the waist and bodice.


Opulence and luxury notwithstanding, a co-ordinated elegance in dress and appearance defined the stand out fashions of the late 40s. Wrap dresses appeared and the gradual change in 1940s dresses would see the emphasis shifting to wider shoulders and hips, accented further by belted waists and the emergence of the fuller skirted ‘prom’ style dress which would become a defining look of the 1950s as fashion continued to evolve and borrow from the previous decade in terms of shape and styling. Dresses in opulent material with corseted waists and swirling skirts to mid-calf led the new decade and as fashion looked to the past, haute couture’s fortunes were revived, creating a myriad of noteworthy designers. Paris fashion had experienced a resurgence after the war thanks to Dior, who would later be joined in the influential design ranks by luminaries such as Balenciaga, Givenchy and Balmain.



1940s dresses ~ in all their guises ~ have undeniably influenced many of today’s designers and continue to evoke, inspire and flatter; this ‘decade of two halves’ is certain to remain as stylish as ever thanks to its timeless creations that defined a generation.




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