1940s Cocktail, Pin up and Bombshell Dresses Guide

Vintage Inspired Party and Cocktail Dresses

1940s Pin Up Dresses

Pin Up Dress

The terms 1940s cocktail dresses, 1940s bombshell dresses, and 1940s pinup dresses have been used to describe any dress sexy dress that is “vintage inspired.” I love these clothes that have become so popular with designers in the USA, UK and AU that they have opened up online and offline stores to cater to the demand. Seeing these fashions everywhere is what inspired me to write the 1940’s Style Guide ebook. However as I was researching 1940’s clothing it became very evident that these “new” 1940’s pin up fashions were not 1940’s at all.

Christian Dior was the first to term “cocktail dress” in the late 1940’s. Her designs were part of the New Look with large circle skirts, fitted bodices, and the introduction of sleeveless tops that became the center of 1950’s fashion. They don’t resemble anything like the tight pencil skirts and dresses that are being labeled 1940’s today.

The major exception is not the clothing but the hairstyles. Betty Page, famous pinup model in the 1950’s, kept her hair in a 1940’s style with victory rolls or bouffant. This hair style combined with mostly late 1950’s clothing and is what is taking the retro world by storm.

Authentic 1940’s style clothing hasn’t entered the market place in the USA  as much as it has in the UK. What is available now is mix of some 1940’s elements on 1950’s style dresses. I thought it would be fun to take a few examples of these cocktail / pin up / bombshell dresses and show you where 1940’s style has influenced these vintage designs.

Patriotic Pin Up Dresses

1940s pin up dress navy and white sailor

Sailor, Nautical or Patriotic 1940s Style Dress

1940s sailor dress

1940s Sailor Dresses

A patriotic dress is suggestive of the 1940’s war time effort, when women showed their support by wearing Navy motifs.  V for victory and anchors were pined and embroidered on dresses, pants and sweaters. This dress shows 100% war time support with the cute 4 button  bodice, white collar, and navy stripes. The skirt’s long length is correct for the 40’s as well. It is not a tight pin up dress, but pin up style none the less. This is a great choice for your next WWII or USO 1940’s party dress.

Sexy Pin Up Dresses

red 1940s pin up dress UVWhen I think of pin up dresses this is what I imagine. Sexy red, pencil tight dresses with charming cap sleeves, sweetheart neckline and knee length skirt. You can’t help but look like a bombshell girl in this dress. It is made by Stop Staring, a brand that is all about recreating 1940s and 1950s pin up inspired dresses. The long length, side ruche gatherings, and sweetheart neckline are what gives this dress plenty of 40’s style. Wear this with a sexy 1940’s pin up hairdo and you’ll look amazing wherever you go.

1940s cocktail dresses

1940s Cocktail “Wiggle” Dresses

Pin up dresses are sometimes called wiggle dresses. The form fitting dress causes the wearer to wiggle while walking hence the name. The best thing about wiggle dresses is that they look amazing on curvy women. Very sexy but in a sophisticated vintage glamour kind of way. If you don’t own a wiggle dress I highly recommend giving one a chance.

Adorable 1940’s Dresses

1940s Maternity dress

1940’s Style About the Artists Dress at Modcloth

1940s pin up dresses

By 1940s pin up artist Gil Elvrin

My favorite pin up pictures from the 1940’s are not the ultra tight, overly sexy, photographs and paintings. Instead they are the innocent ones where girls are wearing everyday 40’s dresses while they get caught in some precarious “revealing” position. The clothes look so cute and so authentic to the 1940’s. This pleated dress is very 1940’s with the puffed cap length sleeves, high waist, self belt tie, A- line skirt, and ruffle trim. It’s the type of dress you could wear to a pin up shoot and then off to your best friends party. This dress is a best seller at Modcloth with multiple color and size options. I have one and I love it!

Little Black Cocktail Dresses

Black 1940s cocktail dress

Little Black 1940s Dress

1940s little black dress

Black 1940s Dresses

Here is another pin up dress that embraces the little black cocktail dress style.  Black dresses became an all time wardrobe staple in the 1940s. Women wore them in the semi formal afternoon and into the evening. One dress for many occasions was the way to be frugal and fashionable in the 1940s. The cocktail dress was born!

This dress is a basic 1940s style wiggle dress with sheer sleeves and neckline. It is a vintage look that can span the 1940s to the 1960s since it is such a classic and simple cut. Wear it to your next semi formal party and sip a martini in style.

Here are many more amazing 1940’s  pin up / bombshell / cocktail dresses for sale online: 

The Neyla Dress in Rouge from ModCloth
 

The Neyla Dress in Rouge from ModCloth

$189.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Rock Steady Red Jane Wiggle Dress
 

Rock Steady Red Jane Wiggle Dress

$63.60

Buy at: Hot Topic

Hell Bunny Emilie Dress
 

Hell Bunny Emilie Dress

$78.80

Buy at: Hot Topic

1940s Style Red Scallop Brenda Peplum Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Red Scallop Brenda Peplum Wiggle Dress

$85.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Retro Chic Dotted Mesh Yoke Swing Dress
 

Retro Chic Dotted Mesh Yoke Swing Dress

$74.50

Buy at: Torrid

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Ruby

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Lady Love Song Dress in Black
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Black

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Green Fitted Karlie Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Green Fitted Karlie Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Film Noir Fan Dress
 

Film Noir Fan Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

A Very Speckled Occasion Dress
 

A Very Speckled Occasion Dress

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Blue Floral Print Nova Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Blue Floral Print Nova Wiggle Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pretty In Pink Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pretty In Pink Wiggle Dress

$90.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Black Pleated Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Pleated Stretch Wiggle Dress

$52.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Nellie Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Nellie Wiggle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

In the Groove Dress
 

In the Groove Dress

$84.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1940s Style Metallic Silver Liliann Peplum Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Metallic Silver Liliann Peplum Fitted Wiggle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Black Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Fitted Wiggle Dress

$108.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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

Lady Love Song Dress in Plaid
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Plaid

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! 1940s Peacock Blue Love Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Peacock Blue Love Wiggle Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Red Dora Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

Red Dora Fitted Wiggle Dress

$118.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Hunter Green Diva Wiggle Dress
 

Hunter Green Diva Wiggle Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pink Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pink Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress

$125.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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 Style Grey Fitted January Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Grey Fitted January Wiggle Dress

$134.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Black Satin Scoop Neck Rosa Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Satin Scoop Neck Rosa Wiggle Dress

$50.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red Heidi Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1950s Style Red Heidi Fitted Wiggle Dress

$40.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Navy & White Stripe Deep Water Wiggle Dress
 

Navy & White Stripe Deep Water Wiggle Dress

$94.00

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

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

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

$122.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Sheath a Lady Dress in Navy
 

Sheath a Lady Dress in Navy

$157.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Demure the Best Dress
 

Demure the Best Dress

$179.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Stop Staring! Billion Dollar Baby Dress
 

Stop Staring! Billion Dollar Baby Dress

$130.50

Buy at: Torrid

Stop Staring! Billionaire Elegant Twist Front Dress (Navy/White Dot) Women's Dress
 

Stop Staring! Billionaire Elegant Twist Front Dress (Navy/White Dot) Women's Dress

$177.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Stop Staring! Fallen Halter Side Detail Dress (Red Plaid) Women's Dress
 

Stop Staring! Fallen Halter Side Detail Dress (Red Plaid) Women's Dress

$186.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Stop Staring! Love Sweetheart Neckline Dress w/ Bow Back Detail (Peacock Blue) Women's Dress
 

Stop Staring! Love Sweetheart Neckline Dress w/ Bow Back Detail (Peacock Blue) Women's Dress

$182.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Piano Bar Chanteuse Dress in Charcoal
 

Piano Bar Chanteuse Dress in Charcoal

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

ASOS TALL V Back Wiggle Dress - Floral
 

ASOS TALL V Back Wiggle Dress - Floral

$53.06

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

ASOS Wiggle Dress in Butterfly Print with Pockets - Print
 

ASOS Wiggle Dress in Butterfly Print with Pockets - Print

$90.96

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Kelly Green Clover Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Kelly Green Clover Dress

$121.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Plus Size Gathered Ava Black Single Shoulder 1940s Style Dress
 

Stop Staring! Plus Size Gathered Ava Black Single Shoulder 1940s Style Dress

$100.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Cranberry Red Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Cranberry Red Fitted Wiggle Dress

$108.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Orange Leopard Lovely Faux Wrap Dress
 

1940s Style Orange Leopard Lovely Faux Wrap Dress

$50.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Taupe Rose Fitted Idda Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Taupe Rose Fitted Idda Wiggle Dress

$128.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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

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

$162.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & Navy Americana Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & Navy Americana Fitted Wiggle Dress

$125.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Red & White Polka Dot Lovely Faux Wrap Dress
 

1940s Style Red & White Polka Dot Lovely Faux Wrap Dress

$100.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Cap Sleeve Belted Stretch Wiggle Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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

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.

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