What Are the Different Types of Vintage 1940s Clothing?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Vintage 1940s clothing is quite popular with collectors and fashion historians. There are many different types of vintage 1940s clothing, including dresses, swimsuits, hats, and men's suits. Since vintage clothing can be hard to find and often quite expensive, fashionistas on a budget may also want to consider vintage reproductions, or clothing made from vintage fabric.

A twill weave.
A twill weave.

1940s dresses tend to be elegant, modest, and often quite detailed. Featuring knee-length or longer skirts, dresses from this era favor an hourglass shape, and are excellent for ladies who love to show off their curves. Cocktail and evening dresses may use fabrics such as chiffon, silk, and satin, while day dresses may be cotton, crepe, or twill. Business dress suits for women also became popular in the 1940s; many include fitted skirts, detailed jackets with puffed sleeves, and delicate blouses.

Cocktail dresses made from satin are usually more formal in nature.
Cocktail dresses made from satin are usually more formal in nature.

One of the most whimsical types of vintage 1940s clothing is ladies swimwear. A generation before the advent of string bikinis, these swim clothes tend to be far more modest and provide a great way to make a fashion splash. Strapless and halter-top one-piece styles and early bikinis with swim shorts or skirts can be found in a variety of cheery colors and tropical-inspired prints. Since most of these suits provide full coverage, they can be great for women with larger chests or great curves.

A great way to jazz up a retro outfit is by adding a vintage hat. Close-fitting felt hats in every color, wide-brimmed straw hats, and even silk turbans can help create an iconic look when paired with reproduction or vintage 1940s clothing. For men, a vintage fedora or even a tweed deerstalker can be an eye-catching addition for the fashion forward. Since hats are somewhat unusual in modern fashion, it can take a lot of gusto and confidence to pull this look off, but adding a vintage hat can be an assured way to stand out at nearly any fancy event.

For men looking for iconic vintage 1940s clothing, a zoot suit may be the most spectacular choice. These tapered suits feature oversized jackets and high-waisted slacks, often held up with colorful suspenders. With a wide tie and collared shirt, the zoot suit is sure to grab attention in any room. Getting the correct fit is essential, so consider having a vintage zoot suit professionally tailored in order to avoid appearing drowned in an overlarge style.

Finding classy recreations instead of vintage 1940s clothing can be a good way to achieve an authentic style without the hefty price tag. Recreation clothing may use period-correct fabric and patterns, but has the benefit of being brand new and often more amenable to modern cleaning options. Some clothing manufacturers that specialize in recreations will even find vintage fabric motifs and reprint them on new fabric, creating a perfectly authentic bolt of cloth with no wear and tear.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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