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: 

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

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

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

Lady Love Song Dress in Plaid
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Plaid

$62.99

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

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pink Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Pink Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress

$106.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Billion Dollar Baby Dress
 

Stop Staring! Billion Dollar Baby Dress

$130.50

Buy at: Torrid

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire
 

Lady Love Song Dress in Sapphire

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

ASOS TALL V Back Wiggle Dress - Floral
 

ASOS TALL V Back Wiggle Dress - Floral

$52.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

ASOS Wiggle Dress in Butterfly Print with Pockets - Print
 

ASOS Wiggle Dress in Butterfly Print with Pockets - Print

$89.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red Rouge Dress

$166.00

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

1940s Style Black Floral Satin Old Masters Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Black Floral Satin Old Masters Wiggle Dress

$78.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & Black Polka Dot Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & Black Polka Dot Fitted Timeless Wiggle Dress

$166.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940's Style Red Fitted Cap Sleeve Evie Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940's Style Red Fitted Cap Sleeve Evie Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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

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

$162.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Coral Pink Million Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Coral Pink Million Dollar Baby Wiggle Dress

$154.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Red Cherry Dollface Wiggle Dress
 

1940s Style Red Cherry Dollface Wiggle Dress

$61.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1940s Style Black Juliana Victory Swing Dress
 

1940s Style Black Juliana Victory Swing Dress

$86.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black Belted Sleeveless Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Belted Sleeveless Swing Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Winter Wonderland Veronique Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Winter Wonderland Veronique Swing Dress

$144.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Serenity Bridge Veronique Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Serenity Bridge Veronique Swing Dress

$144.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black Three-Quarter Sleeve Stretch Bengaline Loren Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black Three-Quarter Sleeve Stretch Bengaline Loren Swing Dress

$86.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950's Style White & Red Cherry Paris Swing Dress
 

1950's Style White & Red Cherry Paris Swing Dress

$152.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red Keyhole Bow Woven Lucille Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red Keyhole Bow Woven Lucille Swing Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Purple & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Purple & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black & White Dotted Sleeveless Recital Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Black & White Dotted Sleeveless Recital Swing Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Grey Fitted January Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Grey Fitted January Wiggle Dress

$114.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & White Dotted Arrabella Fitted Pencil Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Red & White Dotted Arrabella Fitted Pencil Dress

$166.00

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

Black Sleeveless Pleated That Little Black Dress Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

Black Sleeveless Pleated That Little Black Dress Stretch Wiggle Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Magenta & Black Stretch Scarlet Wiggle Dress
 

Magenta & Black Stretch Scarlet Wiggle Dress

$74.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black & Pink Floral Quilted Cutout Wiggle Dress
 

Black & Pink Floral Quilted Cutout Wiggle Dress

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black & Red Polka Dot Annabella Wiggle Dress
 

Black & Red Polka Dot Annabella Wiggle Dress

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Silver Metallic Dora Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

Silver Metallic Dora Fitted Wiggle Dress

$75.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Mad Men Black Pleated Bodice Cap Sleeve Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! Mad Men Black Pleated Bodice Cap Sleeve Wiggle Dress

$154.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Magenta & Black Stretch Scarlet Wiggle Dress
 

Magenta & Black Stretch Scarlet Wiggle Dress

$74.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

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

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

$162.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1960s Mod Style Black & White Trim Short Sleeve Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1960s Mod Style Black & White Trim Short Sleeve Fitted Wiggle Dress

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Black & Yellow Leopard Textured Stretch Wiggle Dress
 

1950s Style Black & Yellow Leopard Textured Stretch Wiggle Dress

$48.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Teal Ruched Wiggle Halter Prom Dress
 

Teal Ruched Wiggle Halter Prom Dress

$60.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Blush Floral Covergirl Halter Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1940s Style Blush Floral Covergirl Halter Fitted Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black & Red Cap Sleeve Skull & Bow Viktoria Wiggle Dress
 

Black & Red Cap Sleeve Skull & Bow Viktoria Wiggle Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! Keyhole Front Classic Dress (Navy) Women's Dress
 

Stop Staring! Keyhole Front Classic Dress (Navy) Women's Dress

$181.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Stop Staring! One Shoulder Silver Metalic Dress (Silver) Women's Dress
 

Stop Staring! One Shoulder Silver Metalic Dress (Silver) Women's Dress

$200.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Retro Chic Dotted Mesh Yoke Swing Dress
 

Retro Chic Dotted Mesh Yoke Swing Dress

$74.50

Buy at: Torrid

Retro Style Navy Blue & Green Tropical Floral High Waist Linen Shorts
 

Retro Style Navy Blue & Green Tropical Floral High Waist Linen Shorts

$38.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Blue & Brown Hibiscus Floral Halter Tiki Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Blue & Brown Hibiscus Floral Halter Tiki Swing Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Teal & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Teal & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

White & Red Sleeveless Cherry Print Misses Swing Dress
 

White & Red Sleeveless Cherry Print Misses Swing Dress

$54.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red & Black Sleeveless Cut Out Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red & Black Sleeveless Cut Out Swing Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Red Cap Sleeve Surplice Scuba Swing Dress

$82.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage 1950s Style Navy Rhapsody Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage 1950s Style Navy Rhapsody Swing Dress

$74.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Navy & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Navy & White Dotted Halter Mariam Swing Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Navy Blue & White Polka Dot Antoinette Swing Dress
 

1950s Style Navy Blue & White Polka Dot Antoinette Swing Dress

$72.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Navy & White Five & Dine Swing Dress
 

Unique Vintage Navy & White Five & Dine Swing Dress

$65.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Lapel in Love Dress
 

Lapel in Love Dress

$52.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1950s Style Red & Black Cut Out Emi Fitted Wiggle Dress
 

1950s Style Red & Black Cut Out Emi Fitted Wiggle Dress

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950s Style Navy Blue & White Anchor Print Nautical Gwyneth Wiggle Dress
 

1950s Style Navy Blue & White Anchor Print Nautical Gwyneth Wiggle Dress

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Seafoam Green Fitted Jayla Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Seafoam Green Fitted Jayla Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style White & Red Strawberry Swing Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style White & Red Strawberry Swing Dress

$178.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Black & White Polka Dot & Bow Beila Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Black & White Polka Dot & Bow Beila Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style White & Coral Pink Acacia Floral Halter Wiggle Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style White & Coral Pink Acacia Floral Halter Wiggle Dress

$158.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Cream Summer Rose Swing Dress
 

Stop Staring! 1950s Style Cream Summer Rose Swing Dress

$116.00

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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