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40s fashion from Hollywood Legends to Modern Reinvention

March 17, 2019

Be inspired by Hollywood style 40s fashion, then bring the 1940s fashion trends into your modern-day wardrobe by fusing vintage fashions with current trends for a look that is all you!


Explore Women’s 1940s fashion done the Hollywood way, with 40s fashion icons from Ava to Ingrid setting the 1940s fashion trends that are as stylish and timeless today as they were current and bold in the 1940s.

Screenshot of Ava Gardner from the film The Killers, 1946

Screenshot of Ava Gardner from the film The Killers, 1946

40s fashion decadence and designs

Everyone, but especially women, had it tough during the war years. Yet, despite the trials and tribulations of war time deprivations, 1940s style and fashion set multiple milestones for elegance, glamour and pizzazz that outshone other decades. 1940s women’s fashion evolved from the serviceable, drab utility clothes of the war time to the glitz and glory of Hollywood dressing and fantasy wear.


Fashion in the 1940s blazed many style and form trails with the fit-and-flare silhouette, tea dresses with full skirts, sexy A-line skirts, padded shoulders, peep toe shoes and other iconic, timelessly flattering vintage style clothing.


And then there were the Hollywood 40s trendsetters, from Davis to Crawford, who paved the way for future decades of style with their quintessential 1940s fashion trends in glamour, glitz and glory.

Yellow organdy "silk satin" by Robert Perrier for Christian Dior

Yellow organdy “silk satin” by Robert Perrier for Christian Dior

40s fashion the Christian Dior way

When it comes to fashion in the 1940s, Christian Dior’s innovative silhouette of the nipped-in waist over full skirts, with the hourglass look exaggerated with padded shoulders, defined 1940s women’s fashion after the end of the Second World War and reinvigorated Europe’s fashion industry with new life.


Dior’s collection of 1940s dresses with full skirts and tea dresses with their below-the-knee length styles introduced what became known as the “New Look”, emulated and adored by fashion magazine editors and the fashion savvy woman every where.

Bette Davis portrait, 1940s

Bette Davis portrait, 1940s

1940s style ala Bette Davis

The original 1940s style pin-up, Bette Davis of the big eyes and deep red lips epitomized Hollywood glamour and elegance is long gowns of silk and satin, worn with structured blonde curls and loads of bling.  Her vintage style clothing set the trend for classic, clean-cut wedding dresses that were simple yet sophisticated.

Screenshot of Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster from the film The Killers, 1946

Screenshot of Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster from the film The Killers, 1946

40s fashion like Ava Gardner

1940s fashion trends made famous by Ava Gardner include emphasizing a tiny waist with a belt and adding a trendy neckerchief knotted around her neck in whimsical prints and silky fabrics.  The belt and scarf amplified the full skirts and nipped-in waists of the fit-and-flare form or added extra oomph to A-line skirts that epitomized the sexy secretary look.

Rita Hayworth promoting cotton stockings, 1941

Rita Hayworth promoting cotton stockings, 1941

1940s fashion trends set by Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth went in the opposite direction to the ultra-feminine styles of other Hollywood stars and embraced the androgynous 1940s style of wide-cut trousers worn over flats with button-down shirts tucked in, a look that is as casual-cool today as it was when she set the trend.

Screenshot of Joan Crawford from the film Mildred Pierce, 1945

Screenshot of Joan Crawford from the film Mildred Pierce,

40s fashion like Joan Crawford

Joan was all about amplifying the female form in floral prints, statement jewellery and peep toe pumps. She took to Dior’s silhouette like a duck to water and blinged it up with bold accessories.

Portrait of Doris Day, Aquarium, New York, N.Y, July 1946

Portrait of Doris Day, Aquarium, New York, N.Y, July 1946

1940s style by Doris Day

That girl-next-door sweetness and light was brought to life by the 1940s fashion trends set by Doris Day. Picture tea dresses with below-the-knee length full skirts shades of pastel or whimsical prints, topped with cropped cardigans draped over her shoulders.

1941 photograph of Katharine Hepburn.

1941 photograph of Katharine Hepburn.

40s fashion and Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn brought classic gingham into the 40s scene, rocking this gorgeous print in her tea dresses with full skirts and nipped-in waists. And let’s not forget the arrival of the Peter Pan collar as a vintage style clothing embellishment that is as whimsical and fun today as it was back then.

40s fashion - Screenshot of Barbara Stanwyck from the film Lady of Burlesque, 1943

Screenshot of Barbara Stanwyck from the film Lady of Burlesque, 1943

Barbara Stanwyck’s 1940s fashion trends

Barbara made her fashion and style statements with lots of big, bold jewellery and golden stylized curls, worn with glitzy evening gowns, elbow-length white gloves and classy peep toe pumps.

-Grace Kelly photo.

Grace Kelly

40s fashion the Royal Grace Kelly way

1940s fashion trends were set by Princess Grace Kelly, both before and after she became a Royal. During her Hollywood days, she was elegant in simple yet sophisticated tea dresses with full skirts and pearl chokers.  As a princess, she was all about 1940s style glitz, glamour and embellishment in royal silks, satins, diamonds and platinum.

Ginger Rogers, 1940s

Ginger Rogers, 1940s

Ginger Rogers and 1940s fashion trends

40s fashion ala Ginger Rogers was about wide-brimmed hats and A-line skirt suits that flaunted her hourglass figure and added a touch of mystery to her face.  Leather driving gloves added the finishing touch to her classic 1940s style.

40s fashion - Screenshot of Ingrid Bergman in the film "Notorious" 1946

Screenshot of Ingrid Bergman in the film “Notorious” 1946

40s fashion, Casablanca and Ingrid Bergman

Who can forget Ingrid Berman in the classic “Casablanca” movie, with block-heeled sandals, cool white 1940s dresses and linen 1940s style outfits. Perfection then and perfect now for your next cruise.

40s fashion - Rita Hayworth on Yank magazine cover, 1944

Rita Hayworth on Yank magazine cover, 1944

Rita Hayworth sets 1940s fashion trends

Another trendsetter for holiday style inspiration, Rita Hayworth knew how to style a 40s bikini, wide-brimmed hat and peep toe sandals to optimum effect as she lounged by the pool in a hot vacation spot.

40s fashion - photo of Lauren Bacall for the November, 1944 issue of Yank, the Army Weekly

Photo of Lauren Bacall for the November, 1944 issue of Yank, the Army Weekly

40s fashion epitomized by Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall set the 1940s fashion trends for sexy evening wear, showing off lots of leg in thigh-high split skirts, satin strappy gowns and other vintage style clothing done the night time way.

40s fashion the Modern Way

Now that you have been inspired by the 1940s fashion trends set by trailblazing Hollywood icons, bring the 1940s style to life in your current wardrobe.


To avoid looking too costume-y, don’t wear vintage style clothing from top to toe. Instead, select a single 40s fashion statement piece, then merge it with your modern favourites for a look that is retro-chic yet timeless in its style and glamour.


Try the nipped-in waist and full skirts of classic 1940s style tea dresses, then dress them down with denim or leather moto jackets slung over your shoulders, and white sneaks or black Doc Martins to toughen up your street wear look for night or dress it down for day wear.

40s Fashion to amplify your style persona

Use your personal style compass as your true North when taking a virtual walk through 40s fashion online shopping sites, then get yourself some 1940s style treasures that speak to you and help you amplify your own personal look and appeal.


Picture 1940s style accessories like bold costume jewellery, or a classic trench coat with a belted waist ala 1940s fashion trends, then mash it all up with your trendy blue jeans and white tee shirt, or layer over your favourite floral print dress for a throwback-yet-modern look.


Take 40s fashion for a modern spin by pairing unexpected combinations of 1940s style with your current wardrobe basics for a unique blend of vintage and new, high street and main street, haute couture and fast fashion. Fashion and style favour the brave, so don’t hold back!


40s fashion online shopping sites give you all the selections and ranges you wants to find your vintage style clothing elements that will add panache and glam-up your everyday wear, so settle in and go for a virtual tour of 1940s fashion trends.


Choose 40s fashion clothes and accessories that inspire you, then mix up your vintage clothing style pieces with your favourite tops, pants, jeans, skirts and dresses for a 40s fashion style that is classic yet modern and very much about you.



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