Women’s Fashion Trends from the 1940s that Should Comeback in 2020

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My definition of a perfect Saturday night involves a cozy blanket, a jar of Nutella and a 1940s classic on my television screen. Yes. Go ahead. Call me a bore and nerd but I wouldn’t change a single thing about my usual weekend ritual. 

Whether it’s Citizen Kane, Casablanca or It’s a Wonderful Life -there’s something therapeutic about getting comfy on my sofa and watching iconic flicks from a time long past. 

Once you look past the casual misogyny (I mean these movies are from the 1940s), you’ll find there’s much to admire about these classics. For instance, I cannot help but adore how women in those times styled themselves. From sexy pinup dresses to high wasted pants, there are some fashion trends from this era that scream grace and elegance. 

So as we start a new decade, perhaps this the best time to jump into a proverbial time machine and bring back some of the styles from 80 years ago. 

  1. Bolero Jackets

Inspired from Spanish matadors, Bolero Jackets symbolized the fashion of the ‘40s. They used little material, which made them perfect for a period where wartime rationing was at its heights. The garment reached the waistline of the equally popular pencil skirts. 

Ladies wore bolero jackets with a pencil skirt and heels in what became the trademark look of the decade. Today, a Bolero jacket can add a much-needed variety to any woman’s blazer collection. And although vintage fashion is often pretty expensive, you can look for ways to make it affordable. But regardless, a bolero is must-have for anyone that seeks fashion inspiration from the old days. 

  1. Long Pencil Skirts

In many ways, 1940s fashion was defined by sleek and long pencil skirts. Since these were the times of modesty, these straight cut, taut skirts were almost ubiquitous. Of course, these skirts are less flamboyant than the ones we see today but they had their own charm. In this age, the pencil skirts from the ‘40s would be an absolute hit in a professional environment. While they wouldn’t be a good fit for your Saturday night out – ladies can wear these bad boys in the office and look good while climbing the corporate ladder. 

  1. Sturdy Gabardine Coats

Women coats and jackets in the ‘40s are often referred to as ‘masculine’ due to their mannish lines and broad shoulders.  Sporting deep pockets and hoods, the gabardine coats matched the conservative atmosphere of those days. However, an emerging trend in the era was using faux fur to feminize the mannish coat styles. Why we should bring them back in 2020? Because they’re warm, practical and makes you look like an ass-kicker. And they aren’t all that expensive, which makes them an option for anyone looking to upgrade their wardrobe on the budget. What more can you ask for? 

  1. Rayons

During the 1940s, fabrics like silk, nylon and wool were difficult to get in the United States due to the ongoing World War II. With the bulk of these materials being used to make military items such as parachutes and army uniforms –rayon became a popular fabric for the citizens. American women favored pocket-less rayon dresses with high hemlines and sober coloring. ‘40s rayon dress is still a relatively popular choice of apparel today. But I cannot help but think they deserve much more love. 

  1. Pillbox Hat

Pillbox hats have remained a staple of American fashion for decades. They were worn in the latter half of the 1940s as a part of an emerging style. This elegant hat was round and stiff and normally undecorated other than an occasional veil on the front. Some ladies wore it straight on the head while others liked it on an angle on the side. Held in place by hatpins, the pillbox went well with anything, from formal clothes to evening gowns. Pillbox went out fashion somewhere around the ‘80s. One can only hope that in 2020, these hats will find their past glory. 

  1. Victorian-Style Formal  Ball Gowns

In early 1940, the Gone with the Wind craze caused the fashion to go back into the Victorian era. Formal gowns and dresses that embraced puffed sleeves, large full skirts and fitted bodices got in vogue. However, due to the bad economy, a unique blend of Victorian style and budget-friendly designed emerged in the latter part of the decade. These vintage dresses were seen everywhere from proms to fancy dinners. Although there were restrictions on plenty of material, sequins and beads were neither restricted nor rationed. This meant that dresses and gowns shined bright in black, pink, red and pink color. These dresses were timeless and something that could still work at an upscale dining establishment today.

  1. Cartwheel Hats

Another item of Victoria that found its place in western fashion was the Cartwheel hats. These straw summer hats sported oversized brims that were both fashionable and practical. Of course, the ‘40s version did not have much decoration but one would usually see a standard long ribbon and bow tie around the crown every now and then. Many cartwheel hats from the late 1940s came in traditional felt or velvet with a relatively smaller size brim. It’s unfortunate that cartwheels are rare these days as they personify elegance better than any fashion item. 

  1. Pussycat Bows

In the ‘40s, wearing separates became a trend. Pussycat bow blouses became a popular pairing with padded blazers and midi pencil skirts. The modern ascot blouses are a variation of pussycat bows except the former closely resembles a scarf while the latter is a fluffy bow. If you want to go full ‘40s in the 2020s, wearing this blouse with a pencil skirt should be a good option. It might even come in handy if you ever plan on cosplaying as Peggy from Mad Men in a Halloween party. 

  1. Shoulder Pads

Back in the day, shoulder padding was encouraged to accentuate the general obsession with tiny waists. For the same reason, shapewear like girdles and corsets was widely used. It was the time when women’s fashion was inspired by the masculine style and shoulder pads were one example of this fad. Of course, this does not mean shoulder pads have no value today. Wear a padded blazer with skinny pants and you’re ready to take on the world. 

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