Thursday, 18 February 2016

1940's Dress Styles

When talking about dress fashion you often divide it into 2 categories: the early 40's and the late 40's.

The early 40's fashion was defined by the strict rationing of fabric the war caused. The dress patterns were therefore very simple: the top often had a military inspired look and the skirt was an a-line that went to the knee.
Later on when fabric shortage ended, bigger flared skirts and colourful fabrics became the norm - the so called "New Look".

But rather than reflecting on pre-war versus post-war fashion, I'll show you some of the dress styles that were popular throughout the 40's.

                                 1940s dress 1940s style dresses for sale

The Shirtwaist Dress
This was by far the most common and most practical cut in the 40's. A shirtwaist dress was easy to put on because you buttoned it up in the front, and the design was so versatile you could wear it for almost any occasion.


Different varieties placed the buttons off centre or sometimes buttons all the way down, but practicality and comfort was the most important.


The Dirndl Dress
The peasant look was very popular during the summer. The Dirndl was originally a traditional Austrian design, but it was embraced very much in USA with big puffy peasant tops and colourful skirts with ruffles. It could be worn as a two part outfit but was also often sewn together to form a dress.



The Pinafore Dress
This was also called The Apron Dress, and that is basically what is was. It had the look of an apron in the front, often complete with ruffles, but it had a full skirt and straps crossing at the back. With a blouse worn underneath a fresh and youthful look was easily achieved.

                            1940's Dress.:

                                   1940s Hollywood Dress Pattern. The pinafore frock with shirt underneath was popular during WWII. It allowed women to still look pretty while remaining practical with their clothing.:

The Swing Dress
This was a dress made to go out dancing (the name kind of gives it away). Therefore the arms were looser, often with puff sleeves, and the skirts were fuller. When the fabric rationing ended you could really go amok with the big twirling skirts with lots of pleats and gathers. It was a favourite especially with the young.



The "Kitty Foyle" Dress
Inspired by the movie of the same name this dress style was fitted in the bodice, and with a white pointed collar, buttons and a belt it had a defined uniform look. Navy inspired designs were popular in particular.

The original Kitty Foyle dress

A navy-inspired version of the dress

The Peplum Dress
Especially popular in the late 40's, the peplum dress was a great semi formal style. The design was popular in ladies suits and in dresses with pencil skirts.



Those were a few of the 40's dress designs that I like and think describe the time period very well. For more information on 40's fashion (or just vintage fashion in general) be sure to visit where I got most of the information for this post.

Which dress type is your favourite?
Could you see yourself wearing any of these?


  1. I love the fashions of the 1940's, the earlier period rather than later. I just haven't caught on to the New Look yet. Out of what you've shown here, I think my favorites are the Dirndl dresses and the swing dresses.

    1. i also prefer the early 40's fashion, those big swishy skirts can be a bit much.
      Yes, I also adore those!

  2. I like most of these but I especially love the swing dress! I'm a big fan of full skirts when I dance. :)

    1. The swing dresses are so neat, I have a weakness for them as well:)

  3. I really like the dirndl dress and the pinafore dress. They're adorable. I mean...the ruffles!! I could certainly see myself wearing a dress like that if I lived in the 40s. :)

    By the way, which style is your favorite?

    1. I know, the ruffles!! Who can resist those??

      I love most of the dresses shown here, but a particular favourite of mine is the shirtwaist dress, it's just so comfortable to wear.
      And the pinafore dress - I dream of having one someday.

  4. Ooh, love this post. Thank you, Rose! I could totally see myself in a Dirndl ensemble (particularly the skirt and blouse). In fact, that's a direction I'm trying to branch my wardrobe into -- which seems feasible as neither seems too time consuming to sew/figure out fitting. And those swing dresses look soooo fun!! ;D

    1. I'm so glad you liked it, Heidi!
      Yes, the Dirndl outfit is just gorgeous, and it is quite easy to make yourself!

  5. Oh I love so many of these that it's practically impossible to choose a favorite. But....I may have to say the shirtwaist dresses and the swing dresses. :) They're just perfect!
    Lovely post!

    1. I feel the same way..all of these are favourites!
      I agree on the shirtwaist dress - it's the most comfortable thing ever.

    2. Have you worn a shirtwaist dress? :D

    3. Yes, I own one. It was my favourite go-to dress last summer and I dream of getting more.

    4. Oh, how wonderful!! I hope I can buy or make one someday. :)

  6. This was great, Rose! I love the swing and Dirndl dresses! I love learning about 40s dresses so much.:)

    ~Rilla Blythe

    1. I'm so glad, Rilla!
      Those swing dresses are gorgeous, I agree.

  7. nice post, keep up with this interesting work. It really is good to know that this topic is being covered also on this web site so cheers for taking time to discuss this!
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