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40s Retro vintage clothing to rock in the Twenty Tens and Beyond!

February 17, 2019

Rock authentic 40s retro vintage clothing from tops and shoes to accessories! Patterns and trends from the 40s resonate today and will always look timeless!


Find the best retro clothes from the 1940s and rock the retro vintage clothing look in ways that flatter your figure, echo the top trends from the 40s and still stay very au-courant for today!

Olivia de Havilland publicity photo, 1940s

Olivia de Havilland publicity photo, 1940s

1940s retro vintage clothing top trends

Take a walk back to the decade that saw the start of World War II, with women joining the work force in droves, donning uniforms for the first time and learning to do more with less. Women came out of their homes and sheltered lives as housewives to assist in the war efforts in factories, farms and even on the front lines. It was there that retro vintage clothing styles were born!


There was heightened awareness of and visibility on fashion, clothing, styles and trends as women went out into the world. Women also looked to fashion to keep their spirits buoyed and their hopes high during those hard years and escaped their harsh realities by emulating the retro clothes and vintage clothing styles of the top Hollywood starlets.

Some of the top trends in retro vintage clothing from the 40s are explored and explained below:

Retro vintage clothing - Hardy Amies brown and beige wool checked suit 1945

Hardy Amies brown and beige wool checked suit 1945

Fit and Flare

Vintage clothing in the 40s was all about the nipped-in waist, full pleated, flared or gathered long skirts that fell below the knee, and belts cinching in the waist with everything.


Another popular vintage clothing look from the 40s was the shirtdress. It was worn in all kinds of patterns and fabrics but always had that classic hourglass shape, always with a belt and usually with elbow-length fitted sleeves.

1945 Photo of singer Helen Forrest, wearing a World War II blouse with the word "ration" printed on it and she is holding a ration book.

1945 Photo of singer Helen Forrest, wearing a World War II blouse with the word “ration” printed on it and she is holding a ration book.

Menswear Inspiration

Retro clothes from the 40s took their inspiration from menswear styles and fabrics for the pants and suits worn by ladies of that decade. Picture high-waisted pleated pants with loose, wide and cuffed legs, worn with tucked-in modest blouses, usually with long sleeves and buttoned-up shirt fronts. Retro vintage clothing also featured jackets with sharp shoulders, sculpted waists and in traditional tweed, checked or pinstriped fabrications.

Retro vintage clothing - 1947 swimsuit top

1947 swimsuit top

Vintage Clothing Accents

Those fit and flare dresses were commonly accented with bow ties at the neck, short puffed sleeves and patterns that ranged from dots to florals to timeless gingham.  Belts were usually in a contrasting colour from the dress or skirt, highlighting a tiny waist. And with retro vintage clothing, belts were worn with everything from dresses to skirts to pants and even shorts.

Retro vintage clothing - Screenshot of Rita Hayworth as Gilda performing Put The Blame On Mame in the trailer for the film Gilda, 1946

Screenshot of Rita Hayworth as Gilda performing Put The Blame On Mame in the trailer for the film Gilda, 1946

Retro Vintage Clothes and Accessories

Providing the finishing touch to the 40s retro clothes were the classic accessories of short multi-strand pearl necklaces, or short patterned neckerchiefs knotted tightly around the neck. And then there were short gloves worn to the wrist, usually in white. Finishing the look were boater-style hats embellished with ribbon or topped with one huge flower in a contrasting hue. Retro vintage clothing shoes were sober, usually solid coloured dark pumps with block heels.

Finishing Touches

To complete the vintage clothing look, ladies in the 40s typically wore their hair in stylized curls, frequently adorned with floral hair clips holding the curls in place. The retro clothes look was very sculpted and refined, enhancing the image of a well-dressed from top-to-toe lady ready to take on the world!

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce trailer, 1945

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce trailer, 1945

Vintage Clothing Icons

The 1940s had many retro clothing icons, particularly from Hollywood. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Doris Day, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly set the vintage clothing rules of the day and their looks were emulated by ladies everywhere!


Ava Gardner epitomized the bombshell retro vintage clothing look, with strapless or halter-neck evening gowns highlighted with a single chunky bracelet or a huge starburst pin. Doris Day was all about the girl-next-door look, with her demure fit-and-flare dresses in pretty pastel shades, neckerchiefs in dots or florals, short white gloves and bouncy blonde curls.

Fashion Designers of Retro Clothes

There were some names that stood out in the vintage clothing fashion industry in the 40s, setting the trends and styles of the day. Dior made the fit-and-flare silhouette famous and Gucci was another popular fashion house and designer of the decade.


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