The 1940s Style Guide That Will Make You a Forties Expert (For Women)

1940s Clothing & Accessories Guide for Women

When Mr Aviacion and I got married last year, we wrote some guides for both male and female guests on putting together a 1940s look. Since then several people (outside of our wedding party) have said they’ve found the guide useful, I’ve recommended it to lots of people, and the web page started getting traffic outside of the group of friends & family we’d originally shared it with. So when I closed down that site, I took the guide with me, and have reproduced it here- with a few extra bits and bobs added in. I hope you enjoy, and if you find it useful- let me know!

Aviacion Wedding
Bee Jackson Photography

Women from the forties had enviable style: they were polished, elegant and feminine. Luckily, this style is remarkably easy to copy! I’ve put together a general guide for anyone who would like to dabble in the era, but isn’t sure where to start. I’ve separated it into easy ‘dos and don’ts’, although I’ll be writing more detailed posts on which recommendations you can ignore, which ones you can definitely break and which ones are for modern purposes only 😉

Formal 1940s Portrait - Four Women


1940s wedding party
Smartly dressed with high necklines and groomed hair

You can quite easily put a 1940s look together from your existing wardrobe. In most cases, there is actually no reason to go and get something specially. A lot of people worry that they need to spend a lot to get an authentic look, but I feel really strongly that you shouldn’t need to break the bank – not everyone has to meet reenactor standards! If you’d like to attend 40s events often, or know you’ll wear the outfit again then it might be worth buying something ‘new’. But for an absolute beginner, do a Lucy Pevensie and just look to your wardrobe.

Dresses with jackets or skirt suits were very popular, with a hat; gloves and pair of medium height heels you’ll be fine. If you would like to buy something new, I can recommend Billie & Blossom at Dorothy Perkins, they do very nice 40s style day dresses. Which if accessories correctly are pretty indistinguishable.

Billie and Blossom Ivory Ditsy Dress 1940s
Recommended style from Billie & Blossom (not suitable for taller women!)

Alternatively, stick with sleeved ‘fit and flare’ midi dresses from any modern shop. If you want to really get it right, make sure your dress is made from natural materials (i.e. 100% cotton). Ebay is always worth a look too.



Civilian ‘Do’s

Knee or calf length skirts and dresses
Nipped in waists
A-line or straight cut skirts
Tea dresses
Knitted cardigans
Structured shoulders
Necklines: square, slit, sweetheart, keyhole, shirred, cross front (wrap), or V with shirtwaist (button down)

1940s Wedding Appropriate
Modest, straight cut women’s suits from an American advert (British suits would often have had slightly shorter skirts). Smart day wear – dress falls just below the knee, short-sleeved, modest v-neck, belted waist, button front and defined shoulders.
1940s French Women's Fashion
Slightly posher day frocks

Civilian ‘Don’t’s

Short dresses
Shiny materials
Clingy materials


Reproduction 1940s Wear

There are some great reproduction wear companies out there, and many make their clothes in Great Britain. They can be expensive, up to around £100 for a dress, but they are a good investment if you do want to buy something ‘new’ and want to  make sure it fits well (as you can always go up or down a size). The other advantage is that someone else has already done the research – you know it’s an authentic look, especially if the description says an original pattern has been used (HeyDey & The House of Foxy).

Recommended companies:

HeyDay, 20th Century Foxy, Vivien of Holloway, Collectif, Revival Retro, Puttin’ on the Ritz, La Vie en Swing, Miss L Fire, Agnes and Norman

For originals, Gingermegs is my go-to

Snapshot of Gingermeg's website

Hair and Make-up ‘Do’s

Curly hair
Up dos
Red lipstick
Orange lipstick
Soft pink lipstick
Eye-liner flicks
Natural eye-shadows
Defined brows
Painted nails

Hair and Make-up ‘Don’t’s

Straight hair
Straight fringes
Square acrylics


1940s beauty
1940s hair and beauty examples

Accessories ‘Do’s

Leather handbags
Leather shoes
Low or mid heels
Hats (indoors too!)
Seamed stockings/tights
Bare legs (there is a war on…)

Accessories ‘Don’t’s

Black opaque tights
Plastic jewellery
Platform heels (modern style)

1940s Accessories
1940s Accessories and Hair Examples

Hair, make-up and styling by Sarah’s Doo Wop Dos, photographed by Jez Brown for Vintage Life Magazine

Recommended links:

Some good online guides:

Easy Guide to a 1940s Woman’s Dress and Style
1940s Fashion Advice
A Cheats Guide to the 1940s Look
How to Dress 1940s Style for Her
1940s Makeup Guide


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