15 Looks Inspired by the '40s

For all the decades that we’ve been celebrating in our closets as of late, the 1940s is getting more and more real estate in our wardrobes this summer. We started with silk midi dresses and began styling ankle-strap heels, puff-sleeve tops, and boudoir-centric outfits. In short: we’re obsessed with 40s-inspired summer outfits.

As we get dressed, we’re looking for style inspiration from the greats: Images of Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and Coco Chanel fill our brains as we put together looks that are both elegant and tailored to perfection. These style icons taught us that embellished silk dresses are equal parts sultry and conservative, a pair of trousers and oxford shoes add sensibility to any office ensemble, and—what’s more—you can mix and match camisoles with tuxedo pants to create a look that wows.

As with everything, though, we’re taking the initial ’40s outfit inspiration and making it our own. It might be that we’re slipping into bright white Keds with our silk dresses, styling midi skirts with T-shirts, and jean shorts with lace-trimmed camisoles. If you’re itching to try out this killer vintage trend, draw a little summertime inspiration from the fashionable street style icons below. And the shop our favorite 1940s-inspired pieces as well!

Go for a more modern jumpsuit, but opt for a ’40s-inspired neckline and ankle crop. If you’re looking for one step further into the retro trend, seek vintage-inspired shoes, bags, and accessories.

Turn your shirtdress into a boudoir-inspired look by seeking a silk style that you might have found in a relative’s closet. 

Modernize your ’40s boudoir-inspired throwback with the addition of an oversize cashmere sweater. Make it even trendier by matching your ankle booties to your skirt.

For a night out, choose a pencil silhouette that still boasts a little bit of a ruffle-hem detail for movement. In a classic polka dot, you’ll have just the right amount of whimsy while still boasting an elegant vibe.

Go for a high-low look championed by the likes of Katharine and Audrey Hepburn who, though not actually related, were somewhat style icon sisters. Dress down a satin skirt with a cotton Breton stripe top and ballet flats.

Mix prints like a pro while adhering to the vintage-inspired silhouette. With a light-toned top and bold floral bottom, you’ll look retro and modern all at the same time.

Keep it simple with neutral tones. Add a little pop of color with a hue that’s less bold than most, like deep yellow. We particularly like this midi skirt and mock turtleneck combo.

Opt for a pair of high-waisted trousers and a knot-front top. Finish it off with simple sophisticated accessories like oversize sunglasses and a mini top-handle bag.

Go the distance with a full-blown 1940s throwback. Slip into a button-front silk dress with embellished details and a pair of heels with a higher-cut toe shape than most.

Keep it simple, beachside or not, with a shirtdress that’s an elevated take on a style from the ’40s.

Mix a little off-duty simplicity with your ’40s-inspired polka-dot pants by tucking a bright white T-shirt into the top. Finish it off with an equally casual denim jacket, but invest in some statement accessories to elevate your look.

Shirtdresses and espadrilles are the ultimate summer pairing. Consider the throw-on-and-go wardrobe staple when getting dressed for everything from the office to weekend brunch.

We’re particularly in love with the piped detail that comes along with a lot of the vintage fashion of the 1940s. It’s just the right amount of detail your summertime dress has been craving.

The silk shirtdress is basically the LBD of summer: the throw-on-and-go wardrobe staple you know can take you anywhere. Classic as it might be, however, it’s always more fun with the addition of your favorite statement-making heels.

Though your grandmother might not have opted for a crop top, that little sliver of skin in a 1940s-inspired silhouette is just the thing you need to make the throwback look a little more youthful.

Shop some 1940s summer staples here

Get ready to fill your closets with a decade that will instantly revive that truly vintage vibe this summer.

Related Stories