Vintage Style Alert: the 40s

If the Paris RTW runways were any indication, the 40s and the 80s will be the influential decades on today’s looks. Personally, I’m more interested in the forties look.

40s wartime look

40s photo from

First some background… There are two primary silhouettes for the forties (both feature nipped waists): the wartime look of strong shoulders with a straight or pencil skirt and the post-world war 2 “New Look” from Christian Dior. The masculine wartime look was born of fabric rationings and the unconscious need for one’s clothing to match the wartime state of mind as well as women’s increasing presence in society and the work force. Rationing kept looks simple – absolutely no full skirts. Clothing was utilitarian in nature while still flattering & featuring the female form (hence the nipped waists and slim skirts). Suits were more masculine with broad, padded shoulders reminiscent of military garb or, for the handy home-maker, refashioned from men’s suit jackets and featured strong, nearly square, shoulders.

Then in the spring of 1947, Christian Dior presented the Corolle line (more popularly known as the New Look).  This new look was a dramatic departure from the austerity of wartime looks, characterized by soft, sloping shoulders, fitted waists (often detailed with peplums) and the fullest of full skirts.

photo of the Le Bar suit from Dior

photo of the Le Bar suit from Dior

This New Look was both revered and criticized.  Women loved the contrast of a more feminine way of dressing after the rather utilitarian stylings of wartime-wear but the look was criticized as too extravagant in a post-rationing world.

Want to wear the 40s soft shouldered peplum look without having to find the perfect piece from the 40s (and believe you me, good pieces from the 40s are few and far between by now…)?  Check out this French Connection top for $88 that we have at our downtown location.  The print is classic forties floralesque with smocking at the waist that gives that peplum look.  Pair it with wide-legged trousers or a slim fitting pencil skirt for a modern take on the 40s look.

French Connection $

photo credit: