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.

1940s WWII vintage feed sack print house farm dress large size
1940s WWII vintage feed sack print house farm dress large size
$45.00
Time Remaining: 53m
VTG Swing WWII Mid 1940s SEMI-Sheer WINDOW Pane PLAID Day HOUSE Dress RUCHING M
VTG Swing WWII Mid 1940s SEMI-Sheer WINDOW Pane PLAID Day HOUSE Dress RUCHING M
$19.99
Time Remaining: 52m
Buy It Now for only: $25.99
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
$34.53
Time Remaining: 5d 16h 13m
Buy It Now for only: $34.53
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
$26.09
Time Remaining: 22d 23h 15m
Buy It Now for only: $26.09
Womens 1940s 1950s Vintage Wedding Evening Party Dresses Red Swing Flared Skater
Womens 1940s 1950s Vintage Wedding Evening Party Dresses Red Swing Flared Skater
$34.99
Time Remaining: 21d 17h 8m
Buy It Now for only: $34.99
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
$53.72
Time Remaining: 29d 11h 52m
Buy It Now for only: $53.72
Hell Bunny Apple Print 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Sun Dress
Hell Bunny Apple Print 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Sun Dress
$30.69
Time Remaining: 16d 1h 3m
Buy It Now for only: $30.69
VINTAGE 1940s DUSTY ROSE PINK WWII SWING COCKTAIL PARTY DRESS XS S
VINTAGE 1940s DUSTY ROSE PINK WWII SWING COCKTAIL PARTY DRESS XS S
$78.00
Time Remaining: 9d 18h 27m
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New Vtg Retro 1940's 1950's Brown Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
New Vtg Retro 1940's 1950's Brown Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
$46.05
Time Remaining: 5d 17h 14m
Buy It Now for only: $46.05
Vintage WWII era 1940s 50s Black Rayon and Taffeta Twirl Day Party Dress L Size
Vintage WWII era 1940s 50s Black Rayon and Taffeta Twirl Day Party Dress L Size
$40.00
Time Remaining: 2d 20h
Hell Bunny Burgundy Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dance Dress
Hell Bunny Burgundy Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dance Dress
$41.44
Time Remaining: 23d 9h 56m
Buy It Now for only: $41.44
Hell Bunny Jocelyn Teal Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Jocelyn Teal Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$61.40
Time Remaining: 19d 15h 42m
Buy It Now for only: $61.40
Womens New Green Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
Womens New Green Satin Flared 1940s Vintage Wartime Party Evening Dress
$41.44
Time Remaining: 5d 21h 42m
Buy It Now for only: $41.44
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
$46.05
Time Remaining: 14d 14h 7m
Buy It Now for only: $46.05
1940's Womens Vintage Rayon Print Day Dress~ Florals & Ribbons~Bust 40
1940's Womens Vintage Rayon Print Day Dress~ Florals & Ribbons~Bust 40"
$20.00
Time Remaining: 20h 47m
Vintage 1940s Rayon Beaded Gown/Dress-Hollywood Glamour L/XL
Vintage 1940s Rayon Beaded Gown/Dress-Hollywood Glamour L/XL
$300.00
Time Remaining: 27d 16h 10m
Buy It Now for only: $300.00
Vintage 1940s 50s Designer Black Taffeta Fit & Flare Party Dress M/L Rockabilly
Vintage 1940s 50s Designer Black Taffeta Fit & Flare Party Dress M/L Rockabilly
$99.00
Time Remaining: 1d 22h 29m
Buy It Now for only: $99.00
New Retro Cream 1940's 1950's Art Nouveau Ditsy Floral Shirt Tea Dress
New Retro Cream 1940's 1950's Art Nouveau Ditsy Floral Shirt Tea Dress
$46.05
Time Remaining: 27d 14h 19m
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Vintage 1940's Black Dress- small to xsmall
Vintage 1940's Black Dress- small to xsmall
$18.99
Time Remaining: 14d 1h 1m
Buy It Now for only: $18.99
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
$38.31
Time Remaining: 5d 16h 59m
Buy It Now for only: $38.31
1940s beaded navy blue dress with peplum
1940s beaded navy blue dress with peplum
$35.00
Time Remaining: 1d 21m
1940's Vintage Ladies Rayon Blue & White Print Dress~Full Skirt~Button Front
1940's Vintage Ladies Rayon Blue & White Print Dress~Full Skirt~Button Front
$12.50
Time Remaining: 4d 1h 32m
New Vtg Retro 1940's 1950's Ditsy Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
New Vtg Retro 1940's 1950's Ditsy Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
$38.37
Time Remaining: 10d 12h 40m
Buy It Now for only: $38.37
VINTAGE 1940s 50s White  Sheer Flocked 3/4 Sleeves Full Skirt  Dress
VINTAGE 1940s 50s White Sheer Flocked 3/4 Sleeves Full Skirt Dress
$59.99
Time Remaining: 17h 1m
Sophisticated Black Velvet Wiggle DRESS Vintage 1940s 50s COCKTAIL PARTY M
Sophisticated Black Velvet Wiggle DRESS Vintage 1940s 50s COCKTAIL PARTY M
$60.00
Time Remaining: 10d 15h 29m
Buy It Now for only: $60.00
New Vtg 1940's 1950’s Novelty Butterfly Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
New Vtg 1940's 1950’s Novelty Butterfly Floral Classic Border Print Tea Dress
$46.05
Time Remaining: 12d 15h 55m
Buy It Now for only: $46.05
Vintage 1940's navy blue and white stripe day dress Sz Small
Vintage 1940's navy blue and white stripe day dress Sz Small
$65.00
Time Remaining: 29d 16h 29m
Buy It Now for only: $65.00
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
$46.05
Time Remaining: 23d 16h 1m
Buy It Now for only: $46.05
VINTAGE  1940s 1950s Gold Satin Black Pin Stripe Shirt Waist Dress
VINTAGE 1940s 1950s Gold Satin Black Pin Stripe Shirt Waist Dress
$39.99
Time Remaining: 22h 51m
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
$50.65
Time Remaining: 7d 12h 33m
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Vintage 1940s 50 Designer Frank Starr Original light green dinner gown BEAUTIFUL
Vintage 1940s 50 Designer Frank Starr Original light green dinner gown BEAUTIFUL
$79.00
Time Remaining: 2d 23h 52m
Vintage 1940s PINK Rayon Dress hip pleats + PASADENA HAT feather dinner prom
Vintage 1940s PINK Rayon Dress hip pleats + PASADENA HAT feather dinner prom
$129.00
Time Remaining: 4d 21h 4m
Buy It Now for only: $129.00
17 Piece - 1940s - 1950s Vintage Clothing Lot - Wedding Gown Dresses
17 Piece - 1940s - 1950s Vintage Clothing Lot - Wedding Gown Dresses
$95.00
Time Remaining: 6d 47m
Buy It Now for only: $95.00
1940s WWII Retro Floral Tea Dress best fit size M
1940s WWII Retro Floral Tea Dress best fit size M
$35.99
Time Remaining: 19h 35m
NEW HELL BUNNY GREEN CYNTHIA 1950S 1940S RETRO VINTAGE POLKA DOTS DRESS 8-16
NEW HELL BUNNY GREEN CYNTHIA 1950S 1940S RETRO VINTAGE POLKA DOTS DRESS 8-16
$58.33
Time Remaining: 19d 14h 53m
Buy It Now for only: $58.33
Vintage 1940's Rayon Print Maternity Dress
Vintage 1940's Rayon Print Maternity Dress
$34.99 (1 Bid)
Time Remaining: 21h 29m
VINTAGE 1940s ORANGE FLORAL LACE WWII COCKTAIL PARTY DANCE ROCKABILLY DRESS L
VINTAGE 1940s ORANGE FLORAL LACE WWII COCKTAIL PARTY DANCE ROCKABILLY DRESS L
$124.00
Time Remaining: 9d 18h 27m
Buy It Now for only: $124.00
Hell Bunny Jennifer Pastel Polka Dot 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Dress
Hell Bunny Jennifer Pastel Polka Dot 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Dress
$26.09
Time Remaining: 15d 15m
Buy It Now for only: $26.09
1940s 1950s dress/ 40s 50s crochet knit dress
1940s 1950s dress/ 40s 50s crochet knit dress
$59.99
Time Remaining: 29d 20h 23m
Buy It Now for only: $59.99
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
$50.65
Time Remaining: 7d 12h 33m
Buy It Now for only: $50.65
1940s peplum green and pink novelty print!
1940s peplum green and pink novelty print!
$75.00
Time Remaining: 1d 32m
VINTAGE 1940s BLUE WHITE WWII DAISY DAISIES FLORAL DRESS M
VINTAGE 1940s BLUE WHITE WWII DAISY DAISIES FLORAL DRESS M
$84.00
Time Remaining: 3d 17h 43m
Buy It Now for only: $84.00
Vtg 1940's/50's Black Print Taffeta Full Skirt Party Dress *L-XL
Vtg 1940's/50's Black Print Taffeta Full Skirt Party Dress *L-XL
$85.00
Time Remaining: 28d 1h 20m
Buy It Now for only: $85.00
1940's DePINNA GOWN - BLACK & NUDE PLEATED CHIFFON DRESS - BLACK LACE TRIM
1940's DePINNA GOWN - BLACK & NUDE PLEATED CHIFFON DRESS - BLACK LACE TRIM
$49.00
Time Remaining: 22h 46m
Vtg 1940s-50s SHEER Rockabilly BUTTON Front COCKTAIL House DAY Dress FULL Skirt
Vtg 1940s-50s SHEER Rockabilly BUTTON Front COCKTAIL House DAY Dress FULL Skirt
$32.49
Time Remaining: 7d 21h 50m
Buy It Now for only: $32.49

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