Five ’40s Dresses That Capture the Era

by Sammy in 17 Comments — Updated December 18, 2019


1940s dresses are one of the more popular vintage style of clothing the modern girl wears today.

It’s easy to see why ’40s fashion is so adored by the 21st century girl — styles were constructed for fit, flattery and function.

Austere-leaning fashion became trendy during the war torn ’40s, and women valued dresses that reflected the era’s ethos for patriotic and classic styles. Silk was replaced with rayon material, girdles were tossed for elastic waistbands and novelty print design gave the more simple, fabric-conserving styles of the era a punch of pizazz.

Because there’s a ’40s clothing lover in every woman, I decided to model 5 ’40s dresses representative of the era’s trends from Hinesite Vintage to show you how these nearly 70-year-old dresses can be worn for 2012!

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<< SHOP NOW: 1940s vintage clothingFive '40s Dresses That Capture the Era 3 from eBay! 

Keep reading after the jump to see the 5 styles I think best represent the ’40s, and to see which one best fits your vintage-inspired life!I was hesitant to model these ’40s dresses because I’ve never declared myself a ’40s or ’50s fashion kind of girl. Since I’m more of a ‘70s clothing kind of gal, I was worried the era just wouldn’t look good on me!

But what I learned after modeling these dresses is that I do enjoy wearing styles of the ’40s! Like life itself, it’s actually empowering to experiment with our fashion choices sometimes. I’m glad I kept an open mind and heart to stay inspired and share these styles with you!

So I want to know: Do you own a ’40s dress? Which of these dresses do you want in your closet right now?

Let me know by leaving some love in the comments below, or saying hello on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

xx, SD


Military Red ’40s Dress

model wearing a 1940s red military dress

a model wearing a 1940s red military dress

close up photo of the bodice including buttons and collar of a 1940s vintage dress

a close up photo of the pleats on a 1940s vintage dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

THE ’40s STYLE: It’s a maroon red rayon dress that captures the essence of the wartime era to the T, from the functional material, austere design and serious color.

Styles were fitted tight to the body to preserve materials for World War II. Without attractive embellishment or designs, a dress like this was cut to the knee to draw attention to the leg — so work those calf muscles ladies!

Buttons along the chest pockets and bodice paired with the skirt’s knife pleats capture the military look of the day.

WEAR THIS IF YOU … Like to rock your hair properly coiffed and styled, don’t mind heels and if you could, would wear nylons with black lines down the back of your legs all day, everyday.

This is the perfect dress for the lady who likes to look perfectly put together without having to wear a ton of separates or accessories.

WEAR THIS WHEN GOING TO … An event of professional nature. This dress would make a killer appearance at a convention, business meeting or networking event.

This dress was designed as a patriotic nod and stylish support for soldiers fighting overseas. Without having to say a single word, your style communicates that you mean business!

Novelty Print ’40s Dress

a 1940s novelty print rayon dress with clown character design

a 1940s vintage dress made from rayon and designed with a novelty print

a close up of the ascot of a 1940s vintage dress

the novelty print of the 1940s vintage dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

THE ’40s STYLE: It’s a novelty print rayon dress with cap sleeves and attached material at the neck which forms an ascot at the chest.

Because silk was used for soldiers’ parachutes during World War II, rayon became a popular alternative to silk when making dresses in the ’40s. Designed with goofy but sweet clowns, the dress has a childish tone while staying incredibly feminine at the same time as it hugs the figure and shows off a girl’s ruves.

The soft rayon material cinches your waist and flares to midi length halfway down the calf, leaving lots to be desired to the eye of the beholder!

WEAR THIS IF YOU … Aren’t clownin’ around with your style! In all seriousness, this is a dress that talks, so expect to talk a lot about it when the people you meet want a closer look at the cute clowns you’re wearing.

It’s the perfect piece for the lady with a vibrant personality who isn’t afraid to chat about her creativity!

WEAR THIS WHEN GOING TO … Somewhere you plan on meeting strangers. Bridal showers, housewarming parties and speed dating events (seriously! I’ve always wanted to wear vintage to one) are great venues to release the full potential of a dress like this.

The print’s “novelty” attributes will strike up conversation with the people around you, and you’ll leave having made a memorable impression on friends old and new.

Suit Style ’40s Dress

a 1940s suit style one piece dress

a composite image of a 1940s vintage suit style dress

a close up of the peplum of a 1940s suit style dress

the print of a 1940s suit style dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

THE ’40s STYLE: It’s a one piece dress designed to look like a skirt suit.

The dress zips along the side hem and buttons along the bodice, but you can’t switch out that top or bottom to pair it with something else. This is a two-in-one deal!

WEAR THIS IF YOU … Are the proud owner of beautifully dark features, curves and a penchant for finger curls, black eyeliner and a bold red lip.

In other words, to keep this dress from looking like something better worn for Church Sunday’s best, you want to own it in a modern way with sexy style and a vivacious personality.

My friend Jasmin of Vintage Vandal would rock this dress!

WEAR THIS WHEN GOING TO … A low lit smokey bar, preferably one that serves cocktails with catchy names (and strong ingredients), plays live jazz and between you and me, inspires all the boys to eye you up as you bend over to seductively whisper your drink order to the bartender!

Country Plaid ’40s Dress

a 1940s country plaid dress with pockets

a composite image of a 1940s country plaid dress

close up of the waist, belt and pockets of a 1940s country plaid dress

close up of the print from a 1940s country plaid dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

THE ’40s STYLE: It’s a casual style for the era that’d have been worn gardening (the pockets are perfect for your pruners and the color camouflages any grass or dirt stains), playing with children in the yard or walking into town to gather fresh produce at the local market.

WEAR THIS IF YOU … Are comfortable wearing all-over patterns and enjoy a bit of style challenge!

To update for a non-outdoors activity you’d want to layer on some accessories (cardi, belt, tights, shoes) to boost the color palette and lessen the style’s Town & Country look.

WEAR THIS WHEN GOING TO … The town’s outdoor market for farm-to-table fruits, vegetables and other local goodies.

It’s the perfect weekend day dress that can be accessorized with neon brights a la the 2012 trend, or kept pure in its full vintage glory with a straw hat, basket and a pair of summer’s finest espadrille shoes.

Polka Dot ’40s Dress

a 1940s rayon dress in a polka dot pattern on a red base

1940s red polka dot rayon dress

the sleeve and cuffs of a 1940s red polka dot rayon dress

the polka dot print of a 1940s rayon dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

THE ’40s STYLE: It’s a more lively take on the traditional polka dot pattern, which makes it a more eye catching piece than the average polka.

The ’40s lady was liberated from the girdle thanks to wartime restrictions (the less fabric you wore, the more patriotic your style personality) so to make up for a woman’s slightly increased waist sans cinch-wear, dresses like this had elastic waistbands to accommodate that after lunch bloat!

WEAR THIS IF YOU … Love the color red! A girl can’t wear this unless she’s already loving this passionate shade, and some blue dots on top are just a vintage bonus.

It’s a great style for the curves-endowed lady. Thanks to the fabric’s flexibility and that expandable waist, it’s going to fit a range of sizes and won’t need alteration if you ever gain or lose a few.

WEAR THIS WHEN GOING TO … To your 9 to 5 day job, dinner with the in-laws or a PTA meeting for your kids.

It’s just enough spunk for the vintage sister who wants her style to sing without feeling like she’s screaming it out loud.

That makes this dress both work and family appropriate. People will know you’re in the room, and they’ll be giving you a complimentary eye and asking you, “Where on the earth did you find that dress?”

1940s Dresses Video

This video is an advertisement of women’s dresses in the 1940s. Note the references to rayon material (easy to wash!) and patriotic colorways to support the war.

Thank you to Hinesite Vintage for loaning vintage clothing for the creation of this article.

hinesite vintage logo


TRENDS: How ’40s Fashion Keeps it Modern for 2012
INSTRUCTION: How to Dress in American 1940s Fashion
DRESS CODE: The ’40s Silhouette Revealed on
MODERN: How ’40s Fashion Looks Great Right Now
HISTORY: How Women Wore World War Two Fashion
WHERE TO BUY: Great ’40s Dress Styles from Stop Staring!

17 thoughts on “Five ’40s Dresses That Capture the Era”

  1. #1 (the maroon dress) is my favorite, but the plaid is a close second!

    • hey Natalie! Agreed — maroon is magical!

  2. That plaid dress is my jam!!

    • LOL! My jam wham bam thank you ma’am! It was surprisingly not a “hanger friendly” dress. Needed a bod to make it pop! Never judge a vintage dress by the hanger.

  3. The military red dress is awesome and my fave.

    • hi Christine! Yes, that maroon red was delicious. A great one for fall! xoxo

  4. Love the military dress and the polka dot of course!

    • This polka dot would have looked epic on you Fajr. Did you see the sale at Bargain Thrift this Memorial Day weekend? GO GO GO! xx

  5. Awesome post Sammy! XO

    • thanks Miss Tickle Me Vintage! ;-)

  6. All the dresses are beautiful, but I really want that umbrella :D

    • Kitt, can you believe the umbrella is $35? The store we featured is a friend of mine. If you are interested, I am sure she’d ship it for you. Let me know ;-) I am [email protected] xx

      • I am seriously drooling now! What an amazing price :)
        Lucky you, I wish I lived close to that shop. I visited the FB page, and oh it looks like vintage heaven!

        • Kitt, if you can ever visit little ‘ole Lancaster, Pennsylvania from Australia, I will show you the way to Hinesite Vintage! xx

  7. I don’t have to tell you I LOVE the suit dress! The country plaid was a close second! You look great in all of these looks! :)

    • I’m so happy you liked the suit dress! It was a wild card for me! xx

  8. In my opinion “Military Red ’40s Dress” is the best one.


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