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: 

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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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