Fashion through the decades: 40s & 50s

40s

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Despite the hardships of World War 2, the 40s were still a milestone decade for style, despite 1930s fashion being a hard act to follow. It was a decade of trailblazing styles and new silhouettes, and many of the styles we’re still supporting today. From Joan Crawford to Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth and Doris day, we chart the era’s style iconic, and top trends, that paved the way for 1950s fashion.

Put simply, 1940s women’s fashion was about creating an hourglass silhouette with masculine details, such as padded shoulders nipped in high waist tops, and A-line skirts that came down to the knee. This was the everyday shape for clothing, from suits to dresses. Even trousers had a similar high waisted, wide leg shape. If a woman was not naturally an hourglass shape, the clothes were designed to help her achieve the look. Being put together, cheerful, and practical was the job of women during WW2. Fashion accessories for this time included hats, gloves, handbags, and jewellery to complete an outfit, while natural makeup with bright red lips helped paint a happy face during difficult times.


50s

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There are two main silhouettes in 1950s fashion – the wasp waist with full skirt & the slim fitting pencil skirt. Both are iconic 50s looks that held great influence until 1956 & can be portrayed as super sexy or fun & flirty – all depending on how you wear them.

The beauty of the 50s era is that there is a ‘look’ that will suit everyone’s shape – the more womanly the better. For those who lacked curves, these were created easily with a bit of help from belts, foundation garments and plenty of net & padding!

From a fashion point of view, this was the rise of the ‘ready to wear’ phenomenon (RTW). Clothing was now being manufactured ‘in mass’ & with greatly improved standards in construction & cloth quality. Variety was now available & imports started to return from, in particular, Paris.

Dior’s iconic ‘New Look’ arrived in Paris in 1947 & due to it’s vastly different shape to the war years – had an enormous impact on the fashion world. Style was now back on track, ironically picking up from where it left off before the pause created by the war. Dior created a succession of silhouettes (which he based on letter shapes!) line A being an a-line silhouette which was achieved by a widening towards the hem & was quickly followed by the Y-line, created by wide dolman sleeves tapering to a slim skirt. However, Dior’s initial look continued to dominate for many years with fashion looking nostalgically to the past with its boned bodices & full petticoats.

Must have 50s accessories:- 

  • Red lipstick

  • Chiffon scarf

  • Gloves

  • Waist cinch belt