Back in time: the magic of the ’30s & ’40s fashion styles

The ’30s fashion, as well as life in general in that period, were influenced by the Great Depression and the First World War. The time of carefree outfits of the twenties became the sophisticated, glamourous, and elegant style of the thirties. In this article, you will enjoy a virtual tour of the greatest models and actresses wearing the most iconic pieces of clothing of the ’30s and ’40s, a period of changes and challenges.

Marlene Dietrich

An icon of Hollywood and a fan of the humble ball gown, Marlene Dietrich was the first woman in history to wear a tuxedo. This was a big step in the history of fashion but also of women.

‘I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.’

Marlene Dietrich

Wallis Simpson

She became famous in the ’30s for her style and boldness, but also because she is the woman for whom King Edward VIII abdicated. Her style and because she was not caring much about the rules of fashion or the society, when Wallis was infamously photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1937 wearing a Schiaparelli dress, designed in collaboration with Salvador Dali, depicting a lobster this was seen as scandalous at that time especially because of the placement of the lobster.

‘Love her or hate her, the world is still obsessed by that woman.’

Roland Mouret

Vivien Leigh

The winner of two Oscars for the best actress, Vivien played the main character in the famous movie Gone with the Wind. She was a breathtaking beauty admired for her beauty, talent, wardrobe, and sense of style. When talking about fashion, she loved Dior, the young designer that revolutionized fashion over the years.

The ’30s and ’40s day dresses were defined by nipped-in waists, full skirts that were gathered, pleated, or flared and fell to mid-calf finished with self-fabric belts emphasizing an hourglass figure. Christian Dior made this fit-and-flare silhouette famous for 30s 40s fashion trendsetters and style is as timeless today as it was current back then. (source: Blue17)

Another famous trend of this period was the shirtdress, and this fashion staple was worn in a variety of patterns and fabrics and with a tight waist and full skirt. The tea dress also made its appearance and women loved the new hourglass figure that this dress shaped as you can see in the picture below.

Christian Dior’s 1940s fashion

Christian Dior is one of the most emblematic personalities of the fashion world, that will never be forgotten. His pieces of clothing are ageless and made history with every collection.  Christian Dior’s groundbreaking new silhouette that appeared in the ’40s, was immediately loved by women. It redefined fashion after a long and hard period of war and other disasters and also brought back to life France’s fashion industry. The collection – featuring gorgeous full skirts and waist-cinching jackets was Dior’s first and was remembered in history as the “new look”.

‘It’s such a new look!’

Harper’s editor Carmel Snow , on the new collection of Christian Dior in 1947

The ’40s fashion trends were also dictated by the greatest designers of the time like Dior, and Balmain and worn by the most famous women of the dacade.

Ava Gardner

One of the most successful actresses of the ’40s, she was also a lover of fashion and she was always in trend. She was always an inspiration for women by wearing the latest pieces like the beautiful belted waist and the chic neckerchief, both of which were key pieces in the 1940s style.

Ginger Rogers

Another fashion and beauty icon of the ’40s and an amazing actress and singer, Ginger Rogers was admired for her style and her effortless yet very elegant looks. Big hats and elegant skirts, were her signature and also emblematic styles of those times.

Shiny hair worn in styled curls, flower clips, neckerchief, big hats, midi length skirts, waist belts, big statement jewelry, pearls, mettalics, over the shoulders blazers, shirtdress, collars, trousers, and suits were all trends of the ’30s and ’40s. The silhouette was shaped better in the new styles not only by the belts that were added on every piece of clothing but by the clothes themselves that have a more stylish finish that put the women’s body in the spotlight better than it ever did before.

Rita Hayworth Grace Kelly (Grace of Monaco)
Joan Crawford Ann Sheridan

As we all know already, some clothes never go out of style. If you feel inspired by the ’30s and ’40s styles you might want to add some statement pieces inspired by these times and mix them with your regular outfits. It’s better to match a vintage piece with new ones than to go for a full vintage outfit that might not represent you or the present times. But you won’t fail with a vintage-inspired outfit that you give a more fresh look like matching a statement blazer with a pair of blue jeans, or a vintage middle length skirt with a biker jacket and some sneakers, or other combinations you can make yourself. Let your personal style inspire your everyday outfits.

Sources: 1940s Fashion: Iconic Looks And The Women Who Made Them Famous ( Fashion And The Women Who Defined The Thirties Style (

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