Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

A Fashionable Forties Look

I love digging through the piles of old photographs that my parents have of their parents during the Forties. My grandmothers, when they were young women, both lived in opposite parts of the country but both radiate the beauty of that decade. Something about the journalistic style of photography of that period, coupled with the way they dressed, makes me wish I could go back to visit the past for a couple of days just to meet the women in those pictures – or maybe I just want to see the scenes in color with my own eyes.

My mother’s parents (left) & my father’s parents (right)

The quiet elegance of 1940s fashion has been immortalized in Hollywood classics like Casablanca and It’s A Wonderful Life, and more recently in modern movies like Pearl Harbor and Captain America: The First Avenger. World War II influenced women’s fashion with military style-lines and the practicality of slacks and work clothes needed for factory work. Yet, somehow, the wartime women still managed to hang on to their femininity – becoming the iconic ideal of what today is still considered a timeless look in the fashion world.

Some glamorous aircraft workers in 1942

One of my best friends, Marlene Whiton, is a makeup artist in the film & television industry. This past Saturday, there was a continuing education class for the local hair & makeup artists like her, who need to renew their licenses. The theme was “1940s Glamour Girls” and she recruited me to be the model they needed for demonstration purposes. I was thrilled – I love period looks!

Makeup Artist Debra Dietrich paints my lips red

Of course, as a costumer, I couldn’t resist making myself a complete ’40s style outfit – not only a dress, but a hat too. I had just enough left-over navy crepe back satin from a previous project for my dress. During the decade of World War II, a patriotic color-scheme of red, white & blue was very popular in women’s fashion. So I made a red felt hat and a red fabric belt to go with some red heels I already owned because matching accessories was very important to the women of that time. I completed the look with a pair of my mom’s mother’s ivory gloves and rhinestone brooch.

Marlene took some fun Vogue-like photos after the class:

Posing at the bar

A back view of the hat

My favorite photograph by Marlene

And here it is altered to look old:

Related posts:

My Forties Dress Revisited

11 responses to “A Fashionable Forties Look

  1. Amy Crawford August 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    How fun!

  2. Orlene August 18, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Wow, your grandmothers would be so proud of the way you captured the 1940’s!

  3. Athene August 18, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    I like the color combination. The dress is cute!

    • Brooke August 19, 2011 at 7:49 am

      Thanks! It was actually supposed to be the mock-up version. But it fit so well, I put a zipper in it & hemmed it, and called it the real thing. =) That hardly ever happens! It is a great pattern from 1946. I think I might have to make it again from some ivory crepe back satin – it would make a beautiful wedding dress.

  4. Justine / sew country chick August 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I had to share this beautiful post! I love yur work! I’m a part time costumer myself.

  5. Justina April 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Your finished look is beautiful I especially love your hat !

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