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Make me a… 1940’s Wartime Woman October 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Makeup/Cosmetics, Vintage.
Tags: , , ,

The third in my series helping modern girls to wear the fashions of their ancestors, this week I address the changeable period of time that was the war-torn 1940’s. These will contain clothes (both vintage, vintage inspired and direct repro), makeup and more, to help you achieve that distinctly vintage fashion style!

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This week I tackle the smart suits and working woman’s styles that characterise that most austere and determined part of history.

 The war had a dramatic effect on the women of the war in the 1940’s, plunging housewives into working roles for the first time in modern history. My own grandmother was a wartime worker, and never quite got over the disappointment of having to go back to the home once the men returned to their jobs. Because of this the need for practicality over high fashion was dramatically apparent, and women often wore suitable trousers and dungarees in preference to the suits and dresses that are used more often to represent this era. Consequently these are what I will show you now, suitable as they are for modern day wear.


1940's fashion denim trousers

1940's fashion denim trousers

The trousers are great fun, with a high waist and wide bold legs. I think that curvy girls with bigger hips can wear them just as well as the willowy type, mainly due to the fact that they were designed to be comfy and easy to wear. Vivien of Holloway produced these incredibly cute denim trousers, whilst if dungarees are your thing (much harder to wear in my opinion!) then try these from Freddie’s of Pinewood. Personally I think inspired looks are better for this, as you can look 1940’s whilst still getting to wear modern measurements for differently proportioned women.

1940's Fashion inspired dungarees

1940's Fashion inspired dungarees

 If you love the gorgeous dresses and suits of the 1940’s (and let’s face it, who doesn’t) then you are probably fed up of me going on about the wonderous trousers and funky vintage dunagrees. The suits and dresses, I must admit, are where you can really go all out and enjoy the look, cinched waist and all. For dresses try Swirls and pretty work wear, any online vintage shop will stock a beautiful example! Whilst the look was still designed for waspish beauties, curvy girls need to concentrate on excellent tailoring, spending a bit more to make the sexy look right. Think Christina Hendricks in Madmen (I know it is 1960’s, but the tailoring point stands across eras!) and you can understand that curvy shapes do work brilliantly for suited looks!

Beautifully Curvy Christina Hendricks

Beautifully Curvy Christina Hendricks

Keep the skirt length long to the knees to make the look 1940’s, and have a little fun with gently padded shoulders. Personally I would dream of a truly vintage suit, but inspired looks are available all over the interwebs and can often give a brilliantly modern twist on the general 1940’s look. The colour range out there is great, so why not try rocking this dramatic orange look if you want to add an 80’s on trend vibe, or keep it sophisticated and office friendly in tan. eBay is teaming with these! Having fun with a suit and adding some vintage feeling can really update your outfit, especially if you throw in a modern scarf or a totally noughties pair of heels!

1904's fashion vintage orange suit

1904's fashion vintage orange suit

1940's fashion vintage tan suit

1940's fashion vintage tan suit

If you really want to act like you live in the 40’s try being creative and making your own accessories with scraps you have lying around the house. After all, make do and mend was hot stuff at the time, and fabrics were rationed. If you are feeling a little lazy, however, try silver (gold was hard to get hold of in the war), along with paste gems, delicate chains and the occasion flower/bird motif.
Finally, you have to work the 1940’s makeup look. A little more accessible than the 1930’s, this makeup went for feminine bright lip colours and simply “unadorned” skin. Powders and soft shades were used, whilst the eyebrows were well defined/sculpted and the cheeks had a healthy rosy glow. I love this era as the makeup isn’t complicated but is beautifully effective. Try Fleur’s wonderful tutorials to see how to work fake bangs and curls to the best of their ability – trust me, she is an expert!


1. Fleur - October 15, 2009

Why thanks dear, I am going to do a makeup tut soon… but I’m not sure the world is ready for my unmadeup face! :O

2. Lauren Cooke - October 16, 2009

hehe, I am sure we are – if I can go makeup naked with my big black shadows then I’m sure your elegant face can manage it 😛

3. Links à la Mode : Thrifty Chic | THE COVETED - October 22, 2009

[…] A Typical Atypical – Make me a… 1940’s wartime woman […]

4. Prom Mafia » Blog Archive » Links a la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup - October 22, 2009

[…] A Typical Atypical – Make me a… 1940’s wartime woman […]

5. Meg - October 22, 2009

Great post! Really interesting and informative!

Lauren Cooke - October 22, 2009

Hi Meg

That’s what I am aiming for! I am so glad you thought so, I am always winging it a bit with this sort of post and hoping it will work!

6. Links a la Mode: Thrifty Chick « A Typical Atypical - October 22, 2009

[…] A Typical Atypical – Make me a… 1940’s wartime woman […]

7. lisa - October 22, 2009

The makeup from this era is so classic and timeless.

Lauren Cooke - October 22, 2009

Isn’t it just Lisa? I love how you could wear this happily nowadays without anyone raising a (well-plucked) eyebrow!

8. IFB Presents: Links á la Mode « Styletastic - October 22, 2009

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10. Links á la Mode: Thrify Chic : Awakened Aesthetic - October 23, 2009

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11. TheWorkingWardrobe.com » Links to Click & Consider » Links à la Mode: Thrifty Chic - October 23, 2009

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12. Links à la Mode: Thrifty Chic | Little Miss Makeup's Blog - October 24, 2009

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13. Links à la Mode – - October 24, 2009

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15. Cosmetics Makeup Skincare blog » Blog Archive » Links à la Mode: Thrifty Chic - October 28, 2009

[…] A Typical Atypical – Make me a … 1940’s wartime woman. […]

16. gmgentry - November 4, 2009

my favorite wives tale is
a cat can steal the breath from a baby’s mouth.

my email address is greendieselgent@gmail.com
i found your blog looking for books that a “modern” women of the 1940’s might call her favorite. i am writing a story that is based in the 1940’s.

would love to win the book you are offering.

17. Make me a… 1950’s Sexy Housewife « A Typical Atypical - December 7, 2009

[…] perhaps, against the classic and refined styles of the war-torn 1940’s, the 1950’s were a period of fun, frivolity and glamour. The American housewife style is the […]

18. emmy - April 2, 2010

Your terrific illustrations helped when researching the look for the 1940s heroine in ‘American Smile’ by Cody Young. I wanted her to have a parachute silk dress with and A-line skirt. It’s a button through style with military style pockets. I had to reinvent the sleeves as they’d gone missing from the pattern somewhere between 1943 and now. To catch a glimpse Vera the blonde bombshell go to

19. jewelry accessories - December 2, 2010

Very sheek! I loved it!

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