Here at Retromat we are happy to be one of the many awesome sponsors for the Greater Boston Vintage Society’s upcoming Winter Formal, which promises to be a most elegant shindig.
Here’s the trick, though: Because they’ll be showing It’s a Wonderful Life, which was released in 1946, the organizers are asking all of those in attendance to shoot for that 1946 look. Several lady members of the Society have experienced some qualms about such a specific target. What exactly does 1946 look like in women’s wear?
Normally it’s almost impossible to pin down a vintage look to a single year, but 1946 is actually a great year for them to have chosen. In fact, it’s going to be a piece of cake to dress appropriately. Why? Because that year was a major transitional period in women’s fashion, which means we have a great deal of freedom to dress almost any way we please.
We are heading into an era of post-war prosperity—but we aren’t quite there yet. So while people want things to be new and fun, and there are emerging trends (some of which will last and some of which won’t), there are also plenty of old standards hanging around, partly from nostalgia for the pre-war period, partly from the continuing recovery from the shortages of the war.
What this means for us is that you can be realistic. There were plenty of gals in the mid-late 40s that still went for the more feminine vibe of the late 30s, so you’ll find dresses from designers of the period that still have that classic slightly more frilly feel. Just look at this 1946 pic of our friend Norma Jean.
Some designers are working firmly with the mid-40s look that is most identified with this period—clean lines, high waist, wide shoulder, cigarette.
But don’t think your options are limited. After all, with the end of the war there are certainly those women and designers who are charting the future… Dior’s New Look, for instance, is already starting to emerge in ’46 and it was absolutely official by ’47. So, break out a cinched waist and big circle skirt for the Winter Formal. Sure, we might think of them as classically 1950s, but they certainly won’t be out of place here.
The point is, there’s no reason to go crazy trying to be perfectly authentically 1940s. No, you don’t want to stand out from the crowd with a 60s mini-dress. But you do want to look and feel gorgeous, and this period provides lots of options for looking “right,” even if your outfit is a few years in either direction of the target. Even if you don’t want to buy vintage, you can look for something that is new but has the style lines that invoke the era we are shooting for. Have fun with it, don’t make it difficult for yourself. This should bring you joy. PLUS – many of you are going to want do dance… and so keep your skirt style in mind with that. No gal is going have fun trying to swing in the thinnest tightest floor length pencil skirt going.
Below, I have gathered images from high end designers, hollywood films and also every day shop adverts as well as a family wedding photo – mostly trying to be diligent about making sure they are from the year 1946. I did grab a few earlier 40s images for this. It’s not like we hit 1946 and every woman had to burn her old stuff or throw it away… so anyway, that said – here you are: CLICK the PIC and you can scroll through the show.