1940s Dresses

In more recent times, it’s quite normal to find many different dress styles in the same decade. The 1940s were less complicated, at least from a fashion point-of-view, and 1940s dresses followed one of two main styles. Until 1947, they were influenced by the profoundly harsh events of the day. World War Two made fabrics scarce, and 40s dresses had to be practical. But, women didn’t give up on looking attractive, they just made-do with what they’d got. During and after 1947, things finally started to change. Christian Dior launched the ‘New Look’ in Paris, pioneering an entirely different design ethos. The two styles couldn’t have been more contrasting, and that’s what makes it such a fascinating decade.

A lady, who was a teenager in the 40s, remembers having a dress made from her father’s old trousers. How would that dress have looked? Like most 1940s dresses, it would’ve been fairly short, about knee length. It would also be quite straight and narrow. There may have been a modest number of buttons, if there were any going spare. The shoulders would certainly be padded, but there would be no fancy stitching or pleats.

Somehow, women managed to look glamorous. They might have been working in a munitions factory, or doing agricultural work, but they never let their standards slip. Collectively, women of the 40s created one of the most memorable looks of the last century. If you want to share their style today, you could start by looking in many of the vintage fairs that are frequently held up and down the country, or by buying something from the product range we advertise on this site.  You’ll find a wide range of retro clothing, including 1940s dresses. Whatever you find, don’t forget to accessorise. Women were very inventive - they paid particular attention to their hair, and hats were a big thing too.

Today, it’s hard to imagine the impact Dior had when he launched his ‘New Look.’ The War was over, but times were still hard. In Britain, rationing didn’t end until 1952. So, when Dior launched his collection in 1947, conditions were much the same as they had been for years. But, Dior began a fashion revolution, and it took place in women’s minds and aspirations. Using what they could, they tried to emulate his signature shapes. 40s dresses and skirts became longer, around the mid-calf. They also became fuller, using more material. Waists were smaller, and busts more emphasised. It was a complete turn-around from the styles of wartime, and Dior’s influence would last well into the 1950s.

On a final note, the lady with the trouser dress made her own Dior dress, and wore it on her 16th birthday.

Retro 1940s Vintage Style Shirtwaist Flared Evening Tea Dress Swing Skaters 8-18
Retro 1940s Vintage Style Shirtwaist Flared Evening Tea Dress Swing Skaters 8-18
$22.99
Time Remaining: 4d 16h 37m
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New Retro 1940's 1950's VTG Blue Pink Ditsy Floral Shirt Tea Dress
New Retro 1940's 1950's VTG Blue Pink Ditsy Floral Shirt Tea Dress
$46.70
Time Remaining: 26d 12h 39m
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Vintage 1940s Rayon Crepe Black Cream Polka Dot DRESS Shirred Waist Metal Zip
Vintage 1940s Rayon Crepe Black Cream Polka Dot DRESS Shirred Waist Metal Zip
$45.00
Time Remaining: 29d 23h 23m
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Vintage 1940s Tropical Floral Crepe Dress, Swing Dance, WWII, 40s, Sz. M
Vintage 1940s Tropical Floral Crepe Dress, Swing Dance, WWII, 40s, Sz. M
$130.00
Time Remaining: 4d 16h 40m
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New Ladies VTG 1940’s 50's style Blue Floral Rockabilly Pin-up Tea Swing Dress
New Ladies VTG 1940’s 50's style Blue Floral Rockabilly Pin-up Tea Swing Dress
$54.49
Time Remaining: 2d 8h 30m
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New Rosa Rosa  1940’s 50's style Red Black Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
New Rosa Rosa 1940’s 50's style Red Black Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
$51.38
Time Remaining: 10d 9h 11m
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VINTAGE 1940'S WWII land girl Rockabilly Pin Up Retro size M WW2 reenacting
VINTAGE 1940'S WWII land girl Rockabilly Pin Up Retro size M WW2 reenacting
$45.00
Time Remaining: 46m
New Black Slinky Plus Size Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s Pin-up Tea Dress
New Black Slinky Plus Size Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s Pin-up Tea Dress
$38.86
Time Remaining: 8d 13h 37m
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Womens New Black Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
Womens New Black Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
$42.03
Time Remaining: 8d 18h 16m
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New Ladies Black Deco Polka Dot Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
New Ladies Black Deco Polka Dot Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
$46.70
Time Remaining: 24d 12h 19m
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New Rosa Rosa  1940’s 50's style Green Black Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
New Rosa Rosa 1940’s 50's style Green Black Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
$51.38
Time Remaining: 10d 9h 11m
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Vintage 1940s Black Rayon and Satin Stripe Peplum Cocktail Dress - Post WWII Era
Vintage 1940s Black Rayon and Satin Stripe Peplum Cocktail Dress - Post WWII Era
$44.99
Time Remaining: 2d 23h 24m
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True Vintage 1940's/50's Full Skirt Black Formal Cocktail Dress~3/4 Sleeve~XS/S
True Vintage 1940's/50's Full Skirt Black Formal Cocktail Dress~3/4 Sleeve~XS/S
$44.00
Time Remaining: 6d 10h 2m
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VINTAGE 1940's VOLUPT BLACK COLD RAYON COCKTAIL PARTY DRESS XL
VINTAGE 1940's VOLUPT BLACK COLD RAYON COCKTAIL PARTY DRESS XL
$59.99
Time Remaining: 10d 13h 11m
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New Slinky Ladies Vtg WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Polka Dot Pin-up Swing Tea Dress
New Slinky Ladies Vtg WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Polka Dot Pin-up Swing Tea Dress
$46.70
Time Remaining: 17d 10h 46m
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1940s Navy and White Polka Dot Wrap Dress Swing Classic V Neck M
1940s Navy and White Polka Dot Wrap Dress Swing Classic V Neck M
$75.00
Time Remaining: 11h 4m
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New Ladies Red Deco Polka Dot Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
New Ladies Red Deco Polka Dot Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
$46.70
Time Remaining: 6d 10h 31m
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Hell Bunny Ingrid Pastel Polka Dot 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Dress
Hell Bunny Ingrid Pastel Polka Dot 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Dress
$49.82
Time Remaining: 25d 19h 54m
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Vintage 1940's 50's Penney's Brentwood floral cotton sundress dress L
Vintage 1940's 50's Penney's Brentwood floral cotton sundress dress L
$58.50
Time Remaining: 24d 15h 8m
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VINTAGE 1940s sexy BLACK RAYON COCKTAIL PARTY wiggle DRESS M VLV!
VINTAGE 1940s sexy BLACK RAYON COCKTAIL PARTY wiggle DRESS M VLV!
$49.99
Time Remaining: 28d 18h 24m
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Hell Bunny Connie Black 1940s 50s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Connie Black 1940s 50s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Dress
$45.15
Time Remaining: 27d 12h 25m
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New Ladies Deco Polka Dot Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
New Ladies Deco Polka Dot Vtg Retro WW2 Land girl 1940s/50s Pin-up Tea Dress
$46.70
Time Remaining: 15d 10h 43m
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Retro 1940s 1950s Green and Black Full Skirt Shawl Collar Pinup Dress
Retro 1940s 1950s Green and Black Full Skirt Shawl Collar Pinup Dress
$115.00
Time Remaining: 13d 20h 39m
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Womens New Burgundy Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
Womens New Burgundy Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
$42.03
Time Remaining: 8d 18h 18m
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Vintage 1940's Black Rayon Dress Large Plus Size
Vintage 1940's Black Rayon Dress Large Plus Size
$14.99
Time Remaining: 1d 22h 16m
Womens New Green Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
Womens New Green Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
$42.03
Time Remaining: 8d 18h 20m
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XS-S Sweet Vintage Edwardian Style Eyelet Dress with Boning and Lining 1940s
XS-S Sweet Vintage Edwardian Style Eyelet Dress with Boning and Lining 1940s
$100.00
Time Remaining: 28d 13h 13m
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Vintage 1940s 1950s Navy Blue Rhinestone & Embroidery Dress
Vintage 1940s 1950s Navy Blue Rhinestone & Embroidery Dress
$44.99
Time Remaining: 3h 18m
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Vintage 1940s 50s Navy Blue Cotton Fit And Flare Belted Dress Rockabilly Medium
Vintage 1940s 50s Navy Blue Cotton Fit And Flare Belted Dress Rockabilly Medium
$69.00
Time Remaining: 17d 19h 23m
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Vintage 1940's Polka-dot Dress
Vintage 1940's Polka-dot Dress
$30.00
Time Remaining: 1d 11h 48m
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Vintage Claire McCardell Designer Dress 1940s
Vintage Claire McCardell Designer Dress 1940s
$210.00
Time Remaining: 24d 20h 33m
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New Black Floral 1940’s Vtg WW2 style Land Girl Wartime Jersey Tea Dress
New Black Floral 1940’s Vtg WW2 style Land Girl Wartime Jersey Tea Dress
$35.02
Time Remaining: 8d 12h 51m
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Vintage 1940s 50s Pink Sheer Searsucker Fit And Flare Belted Dress Rockabilly M
Vintage 1940s 50s Pink Sheer Searsucker Fit And Flare Belted Dress Rockabilly M
$49.00
Time Remaining: 25d 18h 41m
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Vintage 1930's 1940's Blue Pink Yellow Cotton Dress by Modely Size Small 34 B
Vintage 1930's 1940's Blue Pink Yellow Cotton Dress by Modely Size Small 34 B
$32.00
Time Remaining: 1d 50m
Vintage 1940s/50s-Green Brown Floral Pinup Wiggle Day Sun Dress
Vintage 1940s/50s-Green Brown Floral Pinup Wiggle Day Sun Dress
$14.99
Time Remaining: 2d 13h 24m
True Vtg Pink Lace 1940's Dress and Slip Fits Size 4 Benham Original New York
True Vtg Pink Lace 1940's Dress and Slip Fits Size 4 Benham Original New York
$39.99
Time Remaining: 15d 1h 32m
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Hell Bunny Moira Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Moira Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$56.05
Time Remaining: 28d 8h 50m
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VINTAGE LONG SLEEVED, BLACK LACE DRESS (LATE 1940s - EARLY 1950s)
VINTAGE LONG SLEEVED, BLACK LACE DRESS (LATE 1940s - EARLY 1950s)
$18.00
Time Remaining: 29d 17h 54m
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1940s 1950s vintage Red taffeta party cocktail dress med Prom
1940s 1950s vintage Red taffeta party cocktail dress med Prom
$24.99
Time Remaining: 3d 17h 21m
Retro 1940s 1950s Blue Black Open Key Hole back Summer Sun Dress
Retro 1940s 1950s Blue Black Open Key Hole back Summer Sun Dress
$110.00
Time Remaining: 27d 23h 57m
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Retro 1940s 1950s Green And Brown Beaded Tropical Summer Sun dress
Retro 1940s 1950s Green And Brown Beaded Tropical Summer Sun dress
$85.00
Time Remaining: 19d 16h 39m
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VINTAGE 1940s WWII FLORAL TEAL BROWN INDIAN INDIA FESTIVAL LINEN DRESS M
VINTAGE 1940s WWII FLORAL TEAL BROWN INDIAN INDIA FESTIVAL LINEN DRESS M
$72.00
Time Remaining: 3d 23h 52m
LATE 1940'S VINTAGE GRAY COTTON DRESS/EYELET TRIM -USA,-36
LATE 1940'S VINTAGE GRAY COTTON DRESS/EYELET TRIM -USA,-36" BUST
$24.99
Time Remaining: 7d 22h 38m
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Vintage 1940s 50's Ric Rac Summer Day Dress LUCY Pink Rockabilly Pin Up XL SALE!
Vintage 1940s 50's Ric Rac Summer Day Dress LUCY Pink Rockabilly Pin Up XL SALE!
$68.99
Time Remaining: 9d 20h 12m
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Women’s 1940s – 50s vintage summer cotton dress with eyelet yoke medium size
Women’s 1940s – 50s vintage summer cotton dress with eyelet yoke medium size
$28.50
Time Remaining: 3d 20h 41m

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