Saturday, 13 December 2014

1940s Winter Fashion Inspiration

Women in the 1940s - splendid original color photograph!

Being very sick recently, I am quite behind my plan to prepare my vintage style wardrobe for winter.

I have an old long princess seam coat I bought some years ago which goes well with a 1940s outfit, as well as a short one I bought 20 years ago that had rather wide shoulders and strangely is a nice example of an early 2000s does 1940s garment. (I'm still amazed by the quality that is much better than the younger coat.)

Nonetheless, both are not in the best condition anymore, having been worn for many years. I intended to make my own coat, but I should have started earlier. (If I begin now, the coat would be finished in spring.) So both my old coats will probably have to last for another winter, but looking ahead I try to figure out some styles that very popular for women's winter outfits. This would also help me with the question what women used to wear with and underneath their coats, the scarfs, hats, and especially the shoes.

First of all, I certainly don't want to kick off a discussions about the ethics of our way of life in general and about wearing fur in particular.

I found our that women of all social classes used to wear much a lot more fur coats or at least fur accessories and details than today. For collars, cuffs, hats and purses were rather common. Fur was not yet such a gut issue as it is today. To be honest, I think that wearing (vintage) fur is also a way of up-cycling and substantial living. It takes maybe more than 100 years for a man-made fur to degrade, not to mention the chemical pollution that occurs during the production of those materials, while a natural fur is totally degradable. Of course there is still the argument if it's allowed to kill animals for furs. And  I do eat meat (not very often, though), and I do wear leather shoes and other leather items. I'm sure, buy buying a vintage fur you certainly do not support todays fur industry, and even for modern furs, there are certainly some from a more "ethnic" origin. That's my personal opinion.

Even "long" coats were shorter than today's coats. Women often wore costumes underneath. Mostly sheer stockings. I mean, I didn't see any opaque stockings on the pictures, but I'm sure in rural and colder regions women certainly did wear woolen and probably hand knitted stockings.

Instead of a tailored costume, a two-piece suit, or a woolen dress, many women wore knitted dresses. There are still load of lovely knitting patterns to knit or crochet a vintage dress. I'm not skilled in any of them, and it would take me ages to finish even a jumper, so I leave that to the more talented vintage lovers.

In winter, accessories were as important as in summer. Hats, Handbags, scarfs. Sometimes a turban, depending on the style. A turban would be nice, as it can cover the ears for additional warmth. (This reminds me to write a post about vintage turbans…)

I was interested what shoes they wore. And I was totally surprised to see many women wearing peep toe pumps or even sling.backs with their furs or woolen coats. Of course, it there's no snow it's no problem. However, having been brought up on the countryside I was used to wear proper warm and sturdy shoes or boots, no matter if there was snow or not. Of course, when I used to have a job in the city and went to work by train, I did wear high heels and such if the weather was decent. But peep-toes?

However, there was certainly a rands of sturdier pumps, and heeled booties, and I imagine that wedges surely were comfortable to wear on cold rainy or even snowy days.

High-heeled petal booties - elf shoes?

Of course, women in service wore sturdy shoes. But still nice!

And oh, how much I wish the photographer of this young lady had not cut off her feet - she is wearing boots, and it would have been wonderful to see them too!

It's hard form judging by the misty black and white pictures, but winter coats certainly were not available only in muted colours, in shades of brown and grey, and in black or navy, but from the colored pattern envelopes and some rare color photographs you can tell that some also liked to wear bright colours and plaids.

Most of those pictures show women in cities, rather elegantly dressed. But how about women on the countryside? What did they wear in winter?

Certainly, their coats were much simpler, I can imagine they also wore them for heavy work. You can see women wearing trousers.

Young women and teens would sometimes wear sporty jackets or woolen jumpers combined with trousers, especially when they went skiing.


  1. Doris, these sensational! I especially love the colour (that has got to be Kodachrome) photo that kicked off this swoon-worthily fabulous post. In fact, I'm so taken with this wonderful winter fashion post that I'm going to include it in an upcoming edition of Vintage Link Love (probably the one at the end of January, as I'm skipping it this month for a New Year's related post instead). Thank you for all of the marvelous old school cold weather inspiration, lovely lady.

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  2. Dear Jessica, thank you for commenting on my post. I am very happy you liked it. I personally think dressing vintage in summer is easier, it's not difficult to find vintage or vintage style dresses and shoes, but when it comes to warm sweaters and cardigans, trousers, coats and boots, it looks different. I deeply hope I have more time next year to get my vintage wardrobe ready for winter.

    I love the first photo very much. Sometimes we forget that life in the 1940s (and earlier) was not all black and white and all the shades in between, but very colourful (what can be seen in vintage ads). Look at the scarf they lady is wearing - the colours just seem to pop out of the picture!

    Thanks and happy holidays! Hugs from Switzerland, Doris

  3. Not all of those stockings are sheers -- I used to think the same, until a vintage blogger mentioned wearing her heavy-weight nude deadstock stockings. So they just LOOK like the sheers, esp in the old photos, but they're often heavier weight and probably obaque.

    -- Tegan

    1. Thank you Tegan for your hint. To be honest, after writing the post and especially after looking at my own stockings, it came to my mind that, like today, there must have been nude stockings in a warmer quality.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Heavy weight stockings are certainly a saving feature in winter ~ even if we don't get snow, I still need thick stockings!

    Love all these gorgeous pictures, thank you so much for sharing. I pinned almost all of them to my vintage style board! ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Bonita, thank you for visiting my blog. You are right, proper underwear, i.e. stockings, is absolutely important. I don't know here you are living, but in Switzerland, even when we don't get much snow in the lowlands, temperatures can be freezing. It's adorable to wear a warm tweed suit, but only with stockings that re warm enough. Sadly today a heavier quality is difficult to fond, and opaque stockings usually are made in dark colours.

      I'm happy you liked the pics, so did I!

      Best regards, Doris

  5. Great blog, It is really an amazing information.Keep sharing.
    Indian fashion academy Nagpur


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