We love to see our vintage clothing and accessories enjoyed in all sorts of ways, mixed with modern styles, customised or worn just as it is. There may be occasions however when you really want to get your whole appearance decade relevant.
The growth in popularity of events such as Goodwood Revival has led to more of us wanting to up our ante in the accuracy stakes. Wearing vintage allows us to get into the spirit of the era and reflect on the personality and lifestyle of the person who owned our clothes when they were first bought.
In order to fully immerse ourselves in the style of a certain era, it helps to emulate the hair and makeup of the time. Whether you prefer to wear true vintage clothing or modern reproductions of retro styles, getting the finishing touches as accurate as possible can make all the difference. In the first of our guides dedicated to completing your decade look, we examine the accessories, hair and makeup from the 1940s.
The most important part of your look is obviously the 1940s clothing. Here at Revival we have some fabulous womens vintage dresses in a wide range of sizes. If you’re not sure what style of dress or separates you should wear, check out our 1940s vintage fashion guide for more inspiration. Once you have chosen what you want to wear, you can begin to think about how best to accessorise your outfit.
One of the most popular accessories for women in the 1940s were handbags. The 1940s was the decade of ‘make do and mend’ so there was more of an emphasis on functional fashion. Many traditional materials were reserved for the war effort which meant that various animal skins such as goatskin, alligator and snakeskin became a popular choice in handbag production. Larger bags grew in popularity as women needed to carry more items with them and this also resulted in the first truly practical bags for women. A couple of options for a readily available and affordable daytime handbag include a frame bag or a woven wicker grocery basket.
Gloves were another commonly seen item with some women wearing them whenever they left the house. They were often crocheted or made from soft kid leather. Women in the 1940s liked to coordinate their gloves with their outfit, rather than having all matching accessories. The most popular colours for gloves were white, navy, tan, brown and black.
Nude seamed tights or stockings were incredibly fashionable but during the 1940s they became a precious commodity. They tore easily so it was hard to re-use them and a lot of women had no choice other than to go bare legged. Women began to stain their legs with brown household items like gravy or coffee. They would even draw a line down the back of their legs to emulate the seam. The seamed stockings and tights in our shop are the best we have found for quality whilst staying true to the texture and look of the 40s originals.
Women wore fur stoles over evening gowns to keep warm and add a touch of glamour to their attire. They were a must-have accessory for film stars and were often seen in high-end fashion magazines. In the 1940s, fur was the epitome of elegance. Fur coats and stoles were expertly crafted and long lasting which is why there are still so many vintage fur accessories in excellent condition today. Animal cruelty wasn’t a huge concern back then but luckily these days we can get the look by wearing faux fur stoles instead.
Like everything else in the 1940s, shoes were very practical and quite chunky by today’s standards. Sturdy shoes such as a brogue, chunky platform sandal or low wedge heel would work well. We don't stock many shoes at the moment but you can pick up true vintage footwear at vintage fairs. Many styles from the 40s are still around today so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some vintage inspired ones on the high street. We recommend Clarks Originals which is their retro range based on vintage styles.
Hats in the 1940s were seen as a morale booster during difficult times. They were the perfect way to top off an outfit and the styles available were a diverse collection from different times in history. Some of the most popular vintage hats were fascinators, turbans and fedoras. Hats were a striking accessory meant to complement a hairdo rather than cover it up. They came in a variety of colours in order to brighten up the face as well as classic neutral tones.
Generally hair was worn away from the face with over sized folds, waves and pin curls. Of course there are many variations of this theme but the most iconic hairstyle from the 1940s is the Victory Roll. Follow a few simple steps to pull off this look with confidence and glamour:
STEP ONE Straighten and smooth the hair if necessary. Add a golf ball-sized amount of mousse or similar to the hair and spread it evenly from roots to ends. This adds the needed volume to the hair. Alternatively, set straight hair in hot rollers for extra volume before styling.
STEP TWO Create a side or middle part to the middle top of the head using a tail comb. Divide this front section with an ear-to-ear parting so that you have two parts on each side of the hair, and one section in the back. Secure the back section so it won’t get in the way of styling the front parts of the hair.
STEP THREE Pull hair up and back at a 45-degree angle starting on one side of the head. Clasp the middle part and twist the hair two to three times. Bring the twisted middle slightly forward and to the scalp, creating a modified French twist. Secure with as many bobby pins as needed, ideally without them being visible.
STEP FOUR Repeat the Victory Roll on the other side of the hair. Adjust the height of the rolls to your preference. Smooth flyaways and spray the rolls with hairspray.
STEP FIVE Unsecure the back portion. You have the option of leaving it loose in waves or soft curls, or twisting it back in an easy French roll. Another option is parting the back portion in the middle and braiding the hair in pigtails, securing the ends with ribbon.
Alternatively you could style the front and allow the back to be enveloped in a crochet snood. Add a bow for a truly feminine 40s sweetheart look.
For those with shorter locks who can’t quite get their hair into Victory Rolls, there are still plenty of options for a retro hairdo. If you have a fringe curl it under, sleek back the sides and get as much height as you can on top with pin curls or rolls.
If you think your hair looks too modern you can always add a hair scarf, tied house wife method. Choose a red scarf to emulate the most iconic 40s head scarf look of Rosie the Riveter.
During the forties there was a push for a fresh natural look unlike the 1930s and 1950s which favoured reshaping eyebrows and contouring the face. 1940s makeup used the bare minimum of products to enhance natural beauty.
During the war, European women suffered cosmetics shortages as some of the main ingredients in makeup at the time were used for the war effort. When makeup ran out women turned to home remedies as substitutes such as using beetroot juice to stain cheeks and burnt corks to darken lashes and shape eyebrows. In the USA cosmetics continued to be manufactured throughout the war, and were seen by the government as a morale booster for busy women on the home front.
To do your makeup 40s style, skin should be kept looking fresh and flawless. The focal point of your makeup should be red lipstick. This iconic cosmetic item was used to keep women’s spirits up during wartime. Choose a bold shade in a matte finish to draw attention to your lips. Women went for an even look so use the lipstick to make your lips appear to be the same size on top and bottom.
There are lots of good forties step by step makeup guides on YouTube. Just search ‘1940s makeup tutorial’ and find one you like. Here are a few that we recommend:
So now with all these key accessory ideas, hair style tips and makeup tutorials you should be good to go. Try them out so you can well and truly strut your forties stuff!