1940s Flair

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RODARTE BELTED POLKA-DOT SILK MIDI DRESS, $1,495 (modaoperandi.com) | Photo: Greg Kessler/Courtesy of Rodarte

These classic styles remain relevant in an ever-changing world.

By Ashley Besing

From feminine fitted collars to classy pleated skirts, certain sophisticated looks stand the test of time. As such, it’s not surprising that 1940s-inspired pieces have found a place in modern fashion. These chic staples were originally designed for practicality and comfort while also keeping style in mind. Now, designers are enhancing the iconic apparel and accessories with modern flair, proving that ’40s fashion can be both timeless and trending.

Chelsea Kimrey, an Atlanta-based stylist with over 15 years of experience, says that the World War II era brought a style evolution as a result of many women staying home while their husbands went to fight in the war. As goods became scarcer, so did clothing, and floor-length pieces were swapped for midi skirts and slacks.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Kimrey says. “Skirts were designed and made shorter to save fabric. … Initially, [women] wore men’s pants around the house and, later, it became acceptable to wear them in public, birthing the woman’s trouser.” A symbol of changing times, wide-legged trousers are the perfect place to start when trying out a 1940s aesthetic. “I love wearing them to a business meeting—they are the ultimate power pant,” she says.

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Another stylish nod to the era is the breathable mechanic suit, evocative of WWII icon Rosie the Riveter, which provides a comfortable fit for an on-the-go lifestyle with a cool tomboy feel. For more feminine flair, Kimrey loves an A-line day dress paired with a classic pump or a simple white blouse with a refined Peter Pan collar.

Accessories offer another easy way to try on the trend. Elegant details can enhance any outfit, whether dressing up for a day at the office or dressing down for a casual evening out. Try donning a headscarf on your next trip to the beach or adding some strappy, closed-toe heels to your closet. “To be more adventurous and playful, try a puff sleeve,” Kimrey says. “This is great paired with jeans. It’s flirty and perfect for date night.”

Kimrey feels that the throwback trend perfectly complements Southern style. Like ’40s fashion, traditional regional attire often takes a more formal, sophisticated approach.

“Everything is tailored and intentional,” she says. In fact, Kimrey says that what she most adores about 1940s attire is its structure and intention, and that’s also the ke

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y to perfecting the modern take on it. With pieces that are meticulously crafted to produce a specific look at the forefront of this style, a talented tailor and attention to detail are essential.

“This style has very specific places in which the hems and lines fall on the body,” she explains. “A-line skirts must fall just below the knee while waists are cinched in and must hit just below the rib at the smallest place of the waist. If these aren’t in place and tailored to fit, the look is poorly executed.”

With these tips in mind, a quintessential 1940s look is just the ticket for style and elegance this season. From statement sleeves to gentle collars, delicate features add an air of sophistication and grace that is timeless and ideal for any occasion—without the need to exclusively rely on polka dots and pearls.

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