Whether it was the introduction of Dior's "new look," or the decade's beautiful leading ladies-including Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Katharine Hepburn-you have to admit there's something so incredibly elegant and timeless about 1940s fashion. Admittedly, we're suckers for this romantic era, and as such were delighted to find a full-blown redux of the '40s on the F/W 11 runways, where designers like Nanette Lepore and Marc Jacobs showcased longer skirts, nipped waistlines, peplums, and tailored jackets. The look is simple yet simultaneously glamorous, so it's no wonder that starlets like Kirsten Dunst and Diane Kruger have already embraced its old-Hollywood appeal. We're mad about these '40s-inspired looks and are positive you'll love them too!
There were many different influences that drove '40s fashion, which ultimately lead to a variety of silhouettes and key styles, many of which were showcased on the runways this season. Nanette Lepore addressed the early part of the decade, when knitted, tailored jackets were wildly popular and often worn with skirts or dresses in similar fabrics. In the look above, Lepore paired the green tweed Tickle Me Jacket ($398, 212.219.8265) with matching Seduce Me Skirt ($248, 212.219.8265), and made the retro look modern by giving the jacket of-the-moment leather sleeves. Over at Louis Vuitton, Creative Director Marc Jacobs also channeled the early '40s, via a sober color palette and rounded shoulders and collars, which can be seen in the Tecno Fur Dress above, which was sadly not produced. Finally, at the Marc Jacobs F/W 11 show, the designer gave us slimmer, unfussy silhouettes that were a nod to the mid-40s. For one of our favorite outfits, Jacobs paired the Jersey Crepe Round Neck Blouse ($995) with the Double Face Stretch Crepe Skirt with Glitter Dots ($1400), resulting in an incredibly chic, streamlined look.
Not surprisingly, these '40s-inspired looks are a smash off the runways as well! For example, Diane Kruger arrived at a Miu Miu party in Beverly Hills earlier this summer wearing said fashion house's Sable Embroidered Dress ($4105, select Miu Miu boutiques) with a Suede Clutch ($1750, select Miu Miu boutiques). We particularly like the frock's bold shoulders and floral-emblazoned sleeves-floral prints were quite popular during that era-which are the epitome of '40s style. A few months later, at a GQ party during the Toronto International Film Festival, Kirsten Dunst opted for a slightly more conservative take on the '40s look when she paired a polka dot Prada blouse with a pleated, ankle-grazing Chanel skirt. We'd also like to point out that both ladies opted for half up, half down hairdos, which further enhances the retro spirit of their after-hours ensembles.
Now that we've covered both the runway and real way approaches to the 40s look, it's time to talk products! With loads of fabulous pieces available on the market, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a hint of this romantic era into your fall wardrobe. We'd like to first direct you to Carven's Tailored Flannel Jacket ($800), which is a must for anyone hoping to channel the '40s. The grayish hue is incredibly versatile, plus the padded shoulders make for a bold look. We recommend wearing it with a knee-length skirt, like Robert Rodriguez's Pleated Skirt ($295) in Gold, as it offers a great contrast to the jacket's sharp tailoring, resulting in the ultimate '40s-inspired look. Dress seekers are sure to fall in love with Rebecca Taylor's Ghost Flower Cut-Out Dress ($425, 212.243.2600 ) in Black, which features a darling print, slimming long sleeve, and nipped waistline. For those of you hoping to put together a more casual take on the trend, the Blackmoor Fair Isle Sweater ($128) from J. Crew is the perfect piece, thanks to the crew neckline and intricate stitching.
When it comes to accessories, we think Burberry Prorsum's Medium Hedwig Bowling Bag ($2195, 212.407.7100) in Bright Caper is a spot-on selection. Why, you may ask? Women in the '40s typically opted for smaller bags and clutches, so this carrier's ladylike shape and petite size embody the look perfectly. Now, our footwear pick for today's story was quite easy: Diane von Furstenberg's Finn Suede Platform Pumps Finn Suede Platform Pumps ($295) in Bottle Green. We like that the dark green suede isn't too flashy (neutral and darker hues were key in the '40s), plus the heel's platform and delicate ankle strap speak to the feminine and elegant fashions of the decade. And of course, this look wouldn't be complete without a pair of sunnies, hence our inclusion of Betsey Johnson's Crazy Cat Eye Sunglasses ($55)! The retro shades will add just the right amount of '40s flare to your wardrobe this season.
But wait, there's more! In addition to clothing and accessories, a few key beauty products are essential when achieving the '40s look. If you're not a fan of bright red lipstick, try China Glaze's Nail Polish ($5) in City Siren instead; it will give your '40s-inspired outfit a sultry finish. Finally, the era was all about a pretty pink cheek-very feminine and "natural"-hence our recommendation of Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Blush ($45) in Rose. With a powder formula, this blush gives you a long-lasting, natural-looking glow that's gorgeous, glamorous, and essential for that fabulous '40s look!-Jessica Baker
Photos of Katharine Hepburn and Kirsten Dunst, courtesy of Getty. Louis Vuitton runway photo, courtesy of Louis Vuitton; Nanette Lepore runway photo, courtesy of Nanette Lepore; Marc Jacobs runway photo, courtesy of Marc Jacobs.