1940s style is marked by a return to high fashion and extravagance after the austerity and fabric rationing of the war years. Women went from wearing plain colours and simple silhouettes to embracing post-war prosperity. This shift was best embodied in French designer Christian Dior's "New Look" silhouette, which featured a tailored jacket with nipped-in waist and peplum and a long, mid-calf length skirt that emphasised the hourglass silhouette.
Thanks to Dior, 1940s style dresses were soft and romantic, and required complicated undergarments like garters and girdles to help achieve the hourglass look. Another popular characteristic of 1940s style was that of American female designers like Claire McCardell, who began to dress women in sporty leisure and separates in the 1940s.
Film stars of the 1940s also had an impact. Particular icons of the period included Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn, with their high-waist, wide-leg trousers, and Rita Hayworth, in her sexy cocktail dresses and furs. The very same women also influenced the voluminous, feminine hairstyles of the 1940s, which included pin curls, victory rolls and the pompadour.
By Brogan Driscoll & Jen Barton
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