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For Christmas, I was lucky enough to be gifted not one, but two books with images of any 1940s outfit that you could imagine. Featuring everything from undergarments to outerwear, you can imagine my delight and the endless inspiration I’ve been getting from these.
The first is 1940’s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook* by Emmanuelle Dirix & Charlotte Fiell. This is a thick, heavy tome with beautiful quality images. Following the introduction, the only text in this book are the descriptions for each picture of gorgeous forties fashion. Organized by type of clothing, there are a lot of European illustrations in this one and they are so fun! Also notable is the inclusion of accessories, including shoes.
The second book is a dream for a vintage seamstress like me: Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s* by Wade Laboissonniere. Yes, an entire book full of sewing patterns! The upside of this is that you can troll through the book searching for your next vintage pattern purchase. The downside is that, well, your wallet may feel a bit lighter once you’ve gone through the whole book of amazing clothing and found your favorite 1940s outfit — or two! This book is great even if you don’t sew, because the vintage pattern cover art is so lovely and inspirational. There’s even a section for wedding dresses!
I thought I’d share just a few images from the books that may show up in my closet this year… (seriously, it was so hard to limit myself here!)
1940’s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook
Model Ruth Conklin in Dior dresses, shot by Nina Leen for Time & Life magazines, September 1947
Oh my, those necklines… a little scandalous for the forties, no? And I’m loving it. I’d wear the heck out of these dresses today (if my figure could do them any justice LOL)!
Those sleeves on the leftmost dress kill me. And the little flowy crop top on the rightmost dress — I’ve never noticed those in 1940s fashion until this book!
How romantic are these dresses? My favorite is the yellow, with the crossed back. Interesting that you still have a quintessential ’40s style in the black, with some very ’50s looks in the other gowns.
“A model sheet with swatches for a brown and green plaid Dupont Rayon skirt suit. Fashion Frocks Inc., c. 1943” from page 112.
Is this not the perfect ensemble? I have an affinity for plaid (just open my wardrobe and you’ll immediately see) and while I’m trying my best to take a break from plaids and patterns this year, I may just have to take on this outfit…
The little bows at the waist make it particularly charming, don’t you think?
Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s
Part of why I like this book in particular so much is that it has a huge history section full of fashion changes and why they happened. This is particular important during the period of World War II, when things like fabric rationing greatly influenced the turn of fashion. It also describes the industry of home sewing during the 1940s!
Blueprints of Fashion includes sections for every article of clothing — dresses, suits, blouses, even sportswear and lingerie — and also has areas set aside for accessories, costumes (like for Halloween!), men, and even needlework!
Sorry for the multicolor accents that my scanner added to this one! The book describes what was essential in work clothes like this, and talks about uniforms for women working in fields and factories during the war based on USDA specifications.
Of course we think of things like range of motion, coolness, and safety, but it was fascinating to learn that an official requirement for women’s work uniforms was attractiveness.
Unfortunately this book was particularly difficult to scan, but I really love the simplicity of these two. They each have just enough detail — color blocking on the left, and a little peplum and scallops on the right.
I don’t own any two piece sets like this, but this is my favorite type of suit (can you tell, since I posted the similar plaid one above?). Not that the traditional style suits aren’t lovely, but I think these — without a collar or even a need for a blouse, and especially those that have short sleeves like the red ensemble — are particular wearable.
I love the ingenuity and resourcefulness behind remaking clothing. Though during the forties it was often a necessity due to rationing, the results are still super attractive. Can you imagine buying a pattern that just tells you have to add on to or alter your current clothing?
That’s it for now, though I’m sure you’ll see the return of these books as I find more that I love in them (which is basically, well, everything). 1940s Fashion definitely seems rather “high fashion” while Blueprints of Fashion is more for the every day woman. I love them both because they compliment each other so well, and I can pick and choose my favorites!
What’s your favorite inspiration above?
Until next time,
Lauren || The Homemade Pinup
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