Christian Dior and Coco Chanel dominated the world of fashion by the 1940s. Movie stars wore timeless fashion pieces with fitted skirts, impeccable tailoring and flamboyant hats. Many of the elements that made Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant fashion icons remain powerful fashion staples today. Incorporate their movie-star style into your modern-day wardrobe.
The Perfect Suit
The 1940s were years that hailed the perfectly tailored suit for actresses on screen. To capture 1940s style, look for women’s suits that come in sharply at the waist, highlight strong shoulder pads and feature skirts that come all the way down to the kneecap. The perfect ’40s suit came in a variety of tweed or wool fabrics with an understated pattern. Men’s suits were often roomier and called “slack suits.” Look for a pair of pants that have a wide leg and a coat that hits just below the hip bone to recreate the look. Of course, men can always opt for a movie-star tuxedo.
Sporting the Coat
Sport coats were often-worn garments by stylish movie star men during the ’40s — when they weren’t wearing their favorite suit. Pair a knitted sweater in a cream or dark green color with a sport coat in brown or a tweed gray. Add a pair of cuffed trousers and a casual loafer shoe to recreate a weekend outfit. Carey Grant, Bing Crosby and Danny Kay all wore sport coats, vests and casual, cuffed pants in their films.
The Floor-Length Gown
Is there anything more powerful than the image of Joan Crawford or Rita Hayworth in a powerful, floor-length gown? Any respectable ’40s actress had a cache of silky, sparkly full-length gowns. Look for gowns with larger shoulder pads to accentuate the top half of the body; a cinched waist; and plenty of extra length near the feet. Metallic fabrics and satins in powerful textile prints are highly recommended. Add a faux fur stole or some chunky bracelets for a red-carpet stunner. Break out the hot rollers and create big, luscious curls — a la Vivien Leigh — for an even stronger statement.
Top It Off
Add the right hat to any outfit and you will automatically introduce 1940s flare to your ensemble. A simple fedora can add that retro glamour to any man’s suit. Opt for a fedora in a solid color and high-quality fabric for a classier look. Women’s hats ran the gambit in the 1940s. Look for those with a distinctive shape, such as the slightly conical hats popular in 1942. Choose smaller hats with bows or a tiny bit of mesh for a dramatic, soft look.
The Right to Accessorize
Incorporate modern accessories into your 1940s-inspired look. Women of that era often wore fur stoles, large earrings, chunky bracelets and strong shoes with thick heels and rounded toes. Pantyhose were also common items for fashionable movie stars to wear. Add a flick of black eyeliner and a red lip for more Hollywood glamour. Men can add a pocket square to their jackets, some leather loafers and even a bow tie for an added level of ’40s glamour.
References and ResourcesMarie Claire:1940s Fashion: The Decade Captured In 40 Beautiful Pictures
Huffington Post: Cary Grant's Style Evolution
NPR: Gold-Plated Gowns and 8-Inch Pumps
Huffington Post: 1940s Actresses Who Inspire Us to Heat Up the Hot Rollers
GQ: Cary Grant On Style
Fashion Era: Pictures of Hats and Hairstyles 1940-1945