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11 Best 30s, 40s and 50s Retro Fashion Ideas for 2021
Some fashion trends come and go in the blink of an eye, but others can be seen throughout the decades, bringing a sense of classic style to contemporary outfits. We’ve rounded up some of the most popular looks from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s to show you how their unique features and silhouettes can still be seen today.
Bias-Cut Maxi Dresses
In a marked contrast to the boyish look of the 1920s, dresses became far more feminine in the 1930s, with cinched-in waists and skirts that had a slight flare at the ankle. Fabrics were cut on the bias, which gave garments the now-iconic figure-skimming silhouette we have come to associate with this decade. Figure-hugging midi and maxi dresses still make wonderful evening attire, with silky materials further adding to the overall aesthetic.
In the 1940s, women’s fashion took a markedly more masculine turn with the addition of shoulder pads, which helped to create the exaggerated hourglass figure that was so desirable. Today we frequently see that menswear-inspired silhouette, particularly in the spring and fall seasons. This Vintage Corduroy Blazer has an exaggerated shoulder and collar area, which offers a coveted oversized boyfriend fit that suits busy contemporary lifestyles so well.
An Abundance of Accessories
In the 1940s, accessories were used to elevate outfits during difficult times. From handbags to gloves, head scarves and turbans, no outfit was truly complete without at least one accessory.
Until the 1940s, pants had primarily been a menswear garment, but it was during this decade that wide-legged pants finally started making an appearance in women’s closets. They were typically made from denim, cotton or wool blends as women needed clothing that they could wear safely in a workplace environment. In terms of design, they had a masculine silhouette with a high waist and cuffed bottoms. Today, tailored pants are a staple for many women in both workplace and casual settings. They can be dressed up with a blazer and blouse to suit boardroom and office environments or dressed down with sandals and a straw hat for a beach-ready look that will keep the wearer cool on warm summer days.
In the 1950s, pants evolved yet again, and high-waisted jeans, such as these Blue Denim High Waist Ripped Skinny Stretch Jeans, have been a closet essential for many women ever since.
Many young women in the 1950s received a pearl necklace during their teenage years. They could be worn with tea dresses and circle dresses, as well as with twin set sweaters and skirts. Pearl jewelry, such as this Lily Stretch Bracelet-Pearl, is still hugely popular, with new and vintage pieces found in the jewelry boxes of women around the world.
1940s overalls were typically made from heavy cotton or blue denim materials and were ideally suited for physical working environments where safety was essential. The classic silhouette of this garment has endured, and in addition to being a lasting symbol of Rosie the Riveter, overalls have retained their popularity and are now often layered over everything from simple t-shirts to intricate blouses.
In the mid-1940s, women’s Oxford pumps evolved from the rounded-toe silhouette of men’s shoes and were given a chunky heel and short laces. They were often made from black, white or brown leather and were a favorite among young women and teenagers for their look and practicality. Today, Oxfords often appear in stores and on the runway during the fall and winter seasons. They look very trendy when worn with a shift dress over a lacy blouse and accessorized with thick tights.
Twin Set Cardigans
When you think of the 1950s, a classic twin set and pearls is likely to be one of the first things that springs to mind. The preppy look is eternally popular and will continue to make an appearance with a contemporary twist long into the future.
With billowing circle skirts that flared out at the waist and tailored bodices that accentuated an hourglass silhouette, it is clear to see why shirt dresses have continued to grace the closets of generations of women since the 1950s. In addition to being incredibly flattering, shirt dresses are also extremely versatile and can be worn casually or accessorized to suit many formal occasions.
Peter Pan Collars
In the mid-20th century, Peter Pan collars became a popular addition to both wedding dresses and blouses. They continue to experience a resurgence in popularity today and can also be found in detachable form, meaning they can be worn with a range of different outfits.