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.

About the Artist Dress in Navy from ModCloth
 

About the Artist Dress in Navy from ModCloth

$69.99

Buy at: ModCloth

eShakti Women's Puff sleeve sash waist crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Puff sleeve sash waist crepe dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

Weekly Write-up Dress in Navy
 

Weekly Write-up Dress in Navy

$84.99

Buy at: ModCloth

eShakti Women's Puffed sleeve peplum crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Puffed sleeve peplum crepe dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

About the Artist Dress from ModCloth
 

About the Artist Dress from ModCloth

$69.99

Buy at: ModCloth

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

Gallery Galavanting Dress
 

Gallery Galavanting Dress

$59.99

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

eShakti Women's Banded waist cotton poplin dress
 

eShakti Women's Banded waist cotton poplin dress

$59.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Dotted retro poplin shirtdress
 

eShakti Women's Dotted retro poplin shirtdress

$89.95

Buy at: eShakti

Up, Opera, and Away Dress in Cream
 

Up, Opera, and Away Dress in Cream

$169.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Light Blue Floral Short Sleeve Florrie Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Light Blue Floral Short Sleeve Florrie Swing Dress

$318.00

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

Pretty Pick-Me-Up Dress
 

Pretty Pick-Me-Up Dress

$21.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Dance Floor Date Dress in Scarlet
 

Dance Floor Date Dress in Scarlet

$59.99

Buy at: ModCloth

eShakti Women's Piped trim cotton knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Piped trim cotton knit dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Floral vine cotton poplin dress
 

eShakti Women's Floral vine cotton poplin dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Floral vine cotton poplin dress
 

eShakti Women's Floral vine cotton poplin dress

$89.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Tie-neck cotton knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Tie-neck cotton knit dress

$64.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Tie-neck cotton knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Tie-neck cotton knit dress

$64.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Bubble knit sash tied shirtdress
 

eShakti Women's Bubble knit sash tied shirtdress

$89.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Bib front cotton jersey knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Bib front cotton jersey knit dress

$74.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Bib front cotton jersey knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Bib front cotton jersey knit dress

$74.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Peter Pan collar anchor print dress
 

eShakti Women's Peter Pan collar anchor print dress

$83.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Nautical anchor sheath dress
 

eShakti Women's Nautical anchor sheath dress

$72.95

Buy at: eShakti

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Ivory Billion Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Ivory Billion Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress

$32.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

eShakti Women's Vintage style knit dress- more colors
 

eShakti Women's Vintage style knit dress- more colors

$64.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Folk embellished cotton poplin dress
 

eShakti Women's Folk embellished cotton poplin dress

$79.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Piped trim cotton knit dress
 

eShakti Women's Piped trim cotton knit dress

$69.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Forties pleated crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Forties pleated crepe dress

$55.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Forties style red crepe dress
 

eShakti Women's Forties style red crepe dress

$74.95

Buy at: eShakti

eShakti Women's Scallop neck fit-and-flare dress
 

eShakti Women's Scallop neck fit-and-flare dress

$59.95

Buy at: eShakti

Hell Bunny 1940s Style Brown & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress
 

Hell Bunny 1940s Style Brown & Cream Polka Dot Harriet Swing Dress

$358.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Garden Verity Dress
 

Garden Verity Dress

$84.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Amalfi 1940s Day Dress Green Floral
 

Amalfi 1940s Day Dress Green Floral

£64.99

Buy at: Fever London

Amalfi 1940s Day Dress Orange Floral
 

Amalfi 1940s Day Dress Orange Floral

£64.99

Buy at: Fever London

The Very Yacht of You Dress
 

The Very Yacht of You Dress

$25.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Date of the Art Dress
 

Date of the Art Dress

$159.99

Buy at: ModCloth

CEO My Darling Dress
 

CEO My Darling Dress

$174.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Pleasing to the Aye Dress
 

Pleasing to the Aye Dress

$189.99

Buy at: ModCloth

The Harbor I Try Dress
 

The Harbor I Try Dress

$174.99

Buy at: ModCloth

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This entry was posted in 1940s 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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