1940’s Women’s Day Dresses

In these a woman could leave her home to run errands, visit friends, do charity work, go to school or travel. Much of the “vintage retro” look has come from 1940’s day dresses. So what does a 1940’s day dress look like?

From the top down a dress would have:

What did women wear in the 1940's

1940’s Women’s Dresses

Short or Long Sleeves- Dresses in the early 40’s had sleeves that ended just above the elbow or mid forearm. Except for the Kitty Foyle style dress, sleeve did not have cuffs. Many dresses in the mid 40’s started showing very small sleeves called cap sleeves. These were cut with the dress bodice and required no additional sewing other then a simple hem.

High neck line- A 1940’s day dress had a neck line that is modest by today’s standard yet revealing for the times. An opening came in square, heart, or v shapes. Dresses of the 40’s often had collars like smaller versions of those on men’s dress shirts. This is a trademark design of 1940’s dresses. A high neck line brought attention to a women’s face which was simply accented with makeup and very 1940s day dressneatly styled hair.

Square shoulders- Shoulders are squared off in both dresses and blouses. You could draw a straight flat line from the collar to the end of the shoulder and then straight down the arm. This “squared” corner shape was later brought back into the 80’s. Both decades used shoulder pads to make shoulders square.

Fitted bodice- The bodice of the dress were very snug. From the square shoulders to the tiny waist the shape looked like an upside down triangle. Some fancier days dresses had pleats and gathers that formed a “wrap” dress bodice. More casual dresses had an apron front- an apron sewn over a dress-or at least the illusion of one. The most common day dresses were shirtwaist style. They were not zippered in the back instead they were buttoned straight down the front of the bodice and often down the skirt too.

Knee length skirts- Dress skirts went down to the low knee cap. Hemlines had to be very straight and neat otherwise a lady would look shamelessly sloppy! Skirt shapes were A-lined with no pleating until after the war. They fit slightly loose, not “pencil” till the late 1950’s.

Fabric swatches from the 1940s

Late 1940’s Fabrics

Fabric and Trimming- Wool was the most common fabric choice. Easy to care for, comfortable in all weathers, and lasted a long time. However Rayon was the hot new fabric and more and more day dresses were being made with this “new” synthetic. Colors were not that interesting. The war kept choices limited to subtle blue gray’s, medium browns, and faded greens. The post war years had more bright colors and patterns to choose from.

1940s sheer dresses cropEarly years prevented any fabric adornments like pockets and bows. The later 40’s had many of these extra fabric trims.

That completes the typical 1940’s day dress. There are 100’s of vintage, new and reproduction clothing stores that sell 1940’s day dresses. To make your search easier visit my 1940’s dress shopping page to find the perfect dress for you. Plus size gals, don’t worry, there is a shopping page just for you.

1940s Style Blue & White Polka Dot Jennifer Dress
 

1940s Style Blue & White Polka Dot Jennifer Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Puff sleeve sash waist crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Puff sleeve sash waist crepe dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

Star Studded Performance Dress from ModCloth
 

Star Studded Performance Dress from ModCloth

$99.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Navy Miranda Flare Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Navy Miranda Flare Dress

$121.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

About the Artist Dress in Navy from ModCloth
 

About the Artist Dress in Navy from ModCloth

$54.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Delight Me Dress from ModCloth
 

Delight Me Dress from ModCloth

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Live A Little Women's Belted Shirt Dress
 

Live A Little Women's Belted Shirt Dress

$26.78

Buy at: Overstock.com

Author Outings Dress in Green from ModCloth
 

Author Outings Dress in Green from ModCloth

$39.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Jukebox DJ Jumper from ModCloth
 

Jukebox DJ Jumper from ModCloth

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Puffed sleeve peplum crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Puffed sleeve peplum crepe dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

Plus Size 1940s Style Raspberry & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress
 

Plus Size 1940s Style Raspberry & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Green Fitted Karlie Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Green Fitted Karlie Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

About the Artist Dress from ModCloth
 

About the Artist Dress from ModCloth

$54.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Love Skater Midi Dress with Lace Detail and Box Pleat Skirt - Red
 

Love Skater Midi Dress with Lace Detail and Box Pleat Skirt - Red

$54.96

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Kelly Green Clover Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Kelly Green Clover Dress

$121.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Pretty on the Park Bench Dress in Dots from ModCloth
 

Pretty on the Park Bench Dress in Dots from ModCloth

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Seafoam Green Billion Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Seafoam Green Billion Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress

$121.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Peacock Blue Love Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Peacock Blue Love Wiggle Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Fond Voyage Dress from ModCloth
 

Fond Voyage Dress from ModCloth

$94.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Savvy Sailor Dress from ModCloth
 

Savvy Sailor Dress from ModCloth

$69.99

Buy at: ModCloth

About the Musician Dress in Dots from ModCloth
 

About the Musician Dress in Dots from ModCloth

$49.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Black Short Sleeve Fleur Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Black Short Sleeve Fleur Swing Dress

$70.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Thyme a Believer Dress
 

Thyme a Believer Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby from ModCloth
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby from ModCloth

$71.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Hit the Sail Dress from ModCloth
 

Hit the Sail Dress from ModCloth

$54.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Poet and You Know It Dress
 

Poet and You Know It Dress

$139.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Scenic Swoon Dress
 

Scenic Swoon Dress

$65.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Cranberry Red Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Cranberry Red Fitted Wiggle Dress

$108.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Off and Runway Dress
 

Off and Runway Dress

$22.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Floral Field Day Dress in Chambray
 

Floral Field Day Dress in Chambray

$44.99

Buy at: ModCloth

One Floral, All For One Dress in Dusk
 

One Floral, All For One Dress in Dusk

$139.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Brown & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Brown & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Spontaneous SoirC)e Dress
 

Spontaneous SoirC)e Dress

$139.99

Buy at: ModCloth

eShakti Women's Tipped trim Peter Pan collar dress
 

eShakti Women's Tipped trim Peter Pan collar dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

ASOS Textured Midi Skater Dress with Floral Print - Print
 

ASOS Textured Midi Skater Dress with Floral Print - Print

$45.48

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

eShakti Women's Banded waist cotton poplin dress
 

eShakti Women's Banded waist cotton poplin dress

$59.95

Buy at: eShakti

Beacon of Charm Dress in Coast
 

Beacon of Charm Dress in Coast

$37.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Love Midi Skater Dress in Baroque Floral Print - Multi
 

Love Midi Skater Dress in Baroque Floral Print - Multi

$79.59

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Centerpiece Arranging Dress
 

Centerpiece Arranging Dress

$139.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Literary Connoisseur Dress
 

Literary Connoisseur Dress

$109.99

Buy at: ModCloth

On the Scene Dress in Lilac
 

On the Scene Dress in Lilac

$32.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Navy Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Navy Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress

$124.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Trollied Dolly Fanciful Forties Dress
 

Trollied Dolly Fanciful Forties Dress

£55.00

Buy at: House of Fraser

1940s Style Black Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Fitted Wiggle Dress

$108.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Trollied Dolly Fanciful Forties Dress
 

Trollied Dolly Fanciful Forties Dress

£52.00

Buy at: House of Fraser

SEASONLESS WOOL CAROLINE COAT DRESS
 

SEASONLESS WOOL CAROLINE COAT DRESS

$188.00

Buy at: Pendleton

Jolie Moi Retro pattern printed tea dress
 

Jolie Moi Retro pattern printed tea dress

£28.00

Buy at: House of Fraser

eShakti Women's Feminine pleated knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Feminine pleated knit dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Nellie Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Nellie Wiggle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Dotted retro poplin shirtdress
 

eShakti Women's Dotted retro poplin shirtdress

$89.95

Buy at: eShakti

Let's Go to the Shop Dress in Black
 

Let's Go to the Shop Dress in Black

$79.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Light Brown Plaid Fitted Renee Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Light Brown Plaid Fitted Renee Wiggle Dress

$127.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Let's Go to the Shop Dress in Cherry
 

Let's Go to the Shop Dress in Cherry

$79.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Beaut as a Button Dress
 

Beaut as a Button Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Film Noir Fan Dress
 

Film Noir Fan Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Get Up and Bow Dress
 

Get Up and Bow Dress

$79.99

Buy at: ModCloth

A Very Speckled Occasion Dress
 

A Very Speckled Occasion Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Come Again Swoon Dress
 

Come Again Swoon Dress

$94.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Dancing Date Dress in Fern
 

Dancing Date Dress in Fern

$94.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Black Pleated Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Pleated Stretch Wiggle Dress

$52.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Day After Day Dress in Yours Truly
 

Day After Day Dress in Yours Truly

$99.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Fab News Travels Fast Dress
 

Fab News Travels Fast Dress

$54.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Winsome Weekend Dress in Burgundy
 

Winsome Weekend Dress in Burgundy

$59.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Giddy Glamour Dress
 

Giddy Glamour Dress

$97.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Black Juliana Victory Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Black Juliana Victory Swing Dress

$86.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Sangria Pink Amelia Tea Dress
 

1940s Style Sangria Pink Amelia Tea Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Tan Short Sleeve Floral Holly Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Tan Short Sleeve Floral Holly Swing Dress

$72.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Light Blue Floral Short Sleeve Florrie Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Light Blue Floral Short Sleeve Florrie Swing Dress

$78.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Raspberry June Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Raspberry June Swing Dress

$72.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Tropical Toucan Tallulah Sarong Dress
 

1940s Style Tropical Toucan Tallulah Sarong Dress

$64.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Plus Size Mi Amour Dress Catherines Women's Size 1X,2X,3X,0X, Black
 

Plus Size Mi Amour Dress Catherines Women's Size 1X,2X,3X,0X, Black

$99.00

Buy at: Catherines

Plus Size 1940s Style Pink & White Polka Dot Ingrid Swing Dress
 

Plus Size 1940s Style Pink & White Polka Dot Ingrid Swing Dress

$43.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Tipped trim Peter Pan collar dress
 

eShakti Women's Tipped trim Peter Pan collar dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

1940s Style Navy & White Dotted Keyhole Catch Me If You Can Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Navy & White Dotted Keyhole Catch Me If You Can Wiggle Dress

$94.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Closet Scuba Midi Skater Dress In Floral Print - Pale blue floral
 

Closet Scuba Midi Skater Dress In Floral Print - Pale blue floral

$94.75

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Peacock Blue Million Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Peacock Blue Million Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress

$156.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Topiary Tour Dress in Marigold
 

Topiary Tour Dress in Marigold

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Topiary Tour Dress in Flourished Navy
 

Topiary Tour Dress in Flourished Navy

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

One, Two, Tea Dress
 

One, Two, Tea Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Enterprising Entrepreneur Dress in Navy
 

Enterprising Entrepreneur Dress in Navy

$74.99

Buy at: ModCloth

This entry was posted in 1940's Fashion History on by .

About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

One thought on “1940’s Women’s Day Dresses

  1. Emily

    I wanted to write a fiction book and base it in the 1940’s and this site helped sooooooo much with the fashion. Thank you and please continue work.
    Sincerly,
    Emily

    Bookmarked this website … u should 2. ☺

    Reply

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