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.

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
$49.91
Time Remaining: 19d 17m
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Vintage 1940s Black Lace Sheer Evening Dress STUNNING M
Vintage 1940s Black Lace Sheer Evening Dress STUNNING M
$39.99
Time Remaining: 49m
Hell Bunny Darlene Blue Pink Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Darlene Blue Pink Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Dress
$46.79
Time Remaining: 10d 23m
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Womens Black Spotty Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
Womens Black Spotty Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
$62.40
Time Remaining: 3d 21h 5m
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Vintage 1940s Black Lace Sheer Beaded Evening Dress STUNNING M
Vintage 1940s Black Lace Sheer Beaded Evening Dress STUNNING M
$69.99
Time Remaining: 1h 3m
Hell Bunny Shelia Floral Apple 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Party Dress
Hell Bunny Shelia Floral Apple 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Party Dress
$46.79
Time Remaining: 11d 1h 14m
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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
$54.59
Time Remaining: 25d 12h 53m
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Vintage 1940s Floral Day Dress Puff Sleeves Chunky Buttons
Vintage 1940s Floral Day Dress Puff Sleeves Chunky Buttons
$14.99
Time Remaining: 2h 5m
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
$49.91
Time Remaining: 11d 1h 16m
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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
$46.79
Time Remaining: 8d 15h 6m
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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
$51.47
Time Remaining: 3d 13h 34m
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Hell Bunny Moira Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Moira Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$56.16
Time Remaining: 21d 13h 13m
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Hell Bunny Grey Floral Antonella 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Victory Sun Dress
Hell Bunny Grey Floral Antonella 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Victory Sun Dress
$62.40
Time Remaining: 26d 23h 3m
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Hell Bunny Mae West 1940s 50s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Fancy Dress
Hell Bunny Mae West 1940s 50s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Fancy Dress
$45.23
Time Remaining: 29d 13h 49m
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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
$51.47
Time Remaining: 3d 13h 34m
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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
$46.79
Time Remaining: 10d 15h 9m
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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
$35.09
Time Remaining: 1d 17h 14m
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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
$46.79
Time Remaining: 19d 17h 2m
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New Blue Polka Dot WWII 1940’s Land Girl, Home Front classic Swing Tea Dress
New Blue Polka Dot WWII 1940’s Land Girl, Home Front classic Swing Tea Dress
$46.79
Time Remaining: 1d 18h
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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
$59.28
Time Remaining: 15d 15h 54m
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Hell Bunny Sharon Blue Pink Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Sharon Blue Pink Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Style Summer Tea Dress
$46.79
Time Remaining: 10d 23h 20m
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Womens Black Polka Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
Womens Black Polka Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
$49.91
Time Remaining: 28d 23h 24m
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Womens White Polka Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
Womens White Polka Dot 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
$49.91
Time Remaining: 28d 23h 28m
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Vintage 1940s 1950s Polka Dot Print Cotton Summer Dress Pin Up Gown Cocktail
Vintage 1940s 1950s Polka Dot Print Cotton Summer Dress Pin Up Gown Cocktail
$54.00
Time Remaining: 1h 16m
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Hell Bunny Louise Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Victory Sun Dress
Hell Bunny Louise Floral 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Victory Sun Dress
$54.59
Time Remaining: 22h 46m
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1940's Rayon Print Dress w/Peplum-M-Purple Flowers & Pretty Ladies- VINTAGE CHIC
1940's Rayon Print Dress w/Peplum-M-Purple Flowers & Pretty Ladies- VINTAGE CHIC
$24.99 (1 Bid)
Time Remaining: 4h 31m
Vintage Womens Cotton Dress White w Red Dot Print 1940s Rosanna
Vintage Womens Cotton Dress White w Red Dot Print 1940s Rosanna
$60.37
Time Remaining: 13d 20h 31m
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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
$125.00
Time Remaining: 3d 2h 22m
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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: 27d 21h
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Hell Bunny Jocelyn Teal Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Jocelyn Teal Blue 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$62.40
Time Remaining: 15d 16h 43m
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Hell Bunny Madden Light Green Dot WW2 1940s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Madden Light Green Dot WW2 1940s Wartime Landgirl Victory Tea Dress
$45.23
Time Remaining: 2h 39m
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Womens Black Heart 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
Womens Black Heart 1940s Wartime Victory Vintage Pinup Party Tea Dress
$49.91
Time Remaining: 28d 23h 20m
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Hell Bunny Florrie Blue Floral 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Florrie Blue Floral 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$57.72
Time Remaining: 7d 17h 15m
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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
$54.59
Time Remaining: 29d 14h 53m
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Hell Bunny Kim Black 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Kim Black 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$57.72
Time Remaining: 18d 19h 25m
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1940's, 30's Vintage Elegant Evening Silk & Lace Bias Cut Dress
1940's, 30's Vintage Elegant Evening Silk & Lace Bias Cut Dress
$59.99
Time Remaining: 26d 20m
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Hell Bunny Eloise Beige 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Sun Dress
Hell Bunny Eloise Beige 1940s Wartime WW2 Summer Tea Party Sun Dress
$51.47
Time Remaining: 9d 12h 8m
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New Rosa Rosa  1940’s 50's style Black White Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
New Rosa Rosa 1940’s 50's style Black White Floral Rockabilly Party Prom Dress
$51.47
Time Remaining: 3d 13h 34m
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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
$38.93
Time Remaining: 1d 18h
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Hell Bunny Jocelyn Raspberry Red 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Jocelyn Raspberry Red 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$62.40
Time Remaining: 9d 13h 37m
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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
$46.79
Time Remaining: 17d 16h 42m
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Vintage 1940's black WWII Dress metal Side and back zipper M
Vintage 1940's black WWII Dress metal Side and back zipper M
$24.99
Time Remaining: 29d 11h 27m
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Hell Bunny Moira Black 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
Hell Bunny Moira Black 1940s WW2 Wartime Victory Tea Dress
$56.16
Time Remaining: 9d 12h 14m
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Vintage 1940s 1950s hawaiian tiki dress 40s 50s
Vintage 1940s 1950s hawaiian tiki dress 40s 50s
$100.00
Time Remaining: 13d 3h 47m
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Vintage 1930's 1940's White Black Rayon Dress Size Small Medium 34 Bust
Vintage 1930's 1940's White Black Rayon Dress Size Small Medium 34 Bust
$29.00
Time Remaining: 1d 57m

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