1940s Style On A Budget

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Invitation To A Forties Themed Event

So you have been invited to a 1940s themed wedding, party or nostalgia weekend. You don't want to be ungrateful for the invite, you want to look the part, but money is a bit tight right now... then we are here to help! It's a dilemma faced by many as it's a common issue when people reach out to us for advice.

Of course you want to look like you have stepped out of the forties without blowing the budget. We share some tricks to give you the 1940s look for less.

The good news is that during the 1980s, there was a 1940s and 50s revival. Some of the office wear of the eighties echoed the shapes and silhouettes of earlier decades, so that is where we can turn to for look-alike clothing.

The 1940s Look For Ladies Still On A Ration

The image below illustrates the similarities between a typical 1980s suit on our website at the time of writing this and it's original counterpart.


80s Suits

Here are some sewing patterns from the 1980s just to demonstrate how similar to true vintage 1940s some of them look. We often carry vintage 80s pieces that meet our exacting standards for that perfect 40s look, because it helps deliver the right aesthetic to you on a lower budget!

I love the 80s

1940s Style 80s Dresses

Again there are plenty of eighties vintage dresses or more recent reproductions with the silhouette of the 40s. Add a pair of small shoulder pads and a narrow belt to a button through style and you are well on the way to mastering the wartime look. When selecting an 80s dress, any of the following will give it a more authentic appearance: pleated or gathered sleeve heads, wing collars, shirt styles, flared swing style skirts, side zips and square shoulders.

80s Dresses

1940s Style Accessories


A classic frame Kelly style bag or oversized clutch from any decade will look fine with wartime style clothing. You can also use any type of wicker grocery basket or even a string shopping bag.

Frame Bags & Hats

Tights & Stockings

We have all heard of the trick of drawing a pencil line to emulate a pair of seamed stockings - well it IS cheap. If you are worried about "calf smudge", invest in a pair of seam stockings to make your make do and mend 80s dress look a lot more realistic. We find our Pamela Mann seamed tights and stockings very durable - if you look after them they will last several outings. Remember to take your rings off when putting them on. If you choose stockings instead of tights, you can keep the good one if you snag the other to make up another pair further down the line.


A basic pair of brogues or clumpy sandals will do the trick.  You might be able to borrow a pair from an elderly relative... or if like me you are the elderly relative, the good news is a lot of 40s day time shoes were small heeled & comfortable to reflect the extra demands placed on women during wartime.

Look to these delightful old ads for inspiration.

Shoe Advert


You can avoid the expense of a tilt hat or other true vintage 40s hat by adding any one of the following to your hair: a scarf or bandana tied forward, a square scarf tied & tucked in, a clip-on flower or a mesh snood depending on your hairstyle. We also stock a variety of vintage-style hats, half-hats, and scarves that are more affordable than an original piece.

If you have set your heart on a hat you could buy a cheap felt hat, then cut and shape it to make it look more 40s. You can create a half hat or Juliette cap by cutting out the crown & adding feathers, flowers, faux fruit etc.  

Land Girls

The land girl look is easily achieved with a pair of modern overalls or dungarees. Ideally, not the denim variety but any shade of brown, cream or green cotton twill are good. A cute blouse or shirt and a scarf in the hair all complete the look.  Ideally a brogue style shoe or any other type of lace-up. Heels or strappy sandals just won't look right for the Land army style.

1940s Looks For Men Still On A Ration

Forties Style Demob Suits

Again the forties double-breasted demob and spiv suits of the 40s made a re-appearance through the 80s and early 90s. A staple look at the time for upwardly mobile fellas all over the land. Think Del and Rodney trotter during their yuppy phase, or Nails and Frazier Crane. We usually stock a few cheaper ones with minor flaws. Look out for the make do and mend badge, which looks like a thread bobbin.

Forties Inspired Shirts

You can find spearpoint collar shirts on our website from £45 but an even lower-cost alternative still, especially for summer, would be a shirt with the top collar removed to create a stand. Use sharp scissors or unpicker to slide along the join to remove the upper collar. You will end up with a Mandarin style stand similar to our own collarless shirts. 

40s Inspired Shirts

Forties Look Trousers

Pretty much any trousers with a pleated front and turn-ups are a good choice.  They might be chinos, linen, corduroy or tweed. We do stock mens vintage-style fishtail back trousers that are right for the look, but look for a Make Do and Mend pair of vintage trousers if those are out of budget.

If you find a cut-price pair of vintage trousers but they are too small, most men's trousers have a back seam which runs right through the waistband. This can be let out, or a V-shaped piece of similar fabric can be inserted into the back. We have opened the back seam on these 1960s trousers ready to do just that. They have turn-up hems and buttons for braces.

Fishtail Trousers

1940s Look Men's Accessories

If a felt Fedora is pushing the boat out, you can buy a woven paper or straw Panama style with a cheaper price tag. Due to the popularity of Peaky Blinders, 8-panel newsboy caps can be picked up relatively low cost especially if you don't mind acrylic. Our cheapest is a wool mix at £17.

Some 1970s and 80s vintage ties have patterns similar to those of true vintage forties swing styles. Look for placement designs rather than overall repeat patterns for a more authentic look. 1940s-accurate ties are ideally shorter and wider than modern neck-wear. Of course, if you have adapted your shirt to be collarless you won't need a tie.

Vintage trouser braces vary in price. If you don't have buttons on your trousers then clip ones usually work out cheaper as they don't have the real leather loops.

It's often the accessories that give your clothing a more accurate 1940s appearance so if your shirt collar isn't exactly right, adding some St George armbands will detract attention away from it.  Enjoy experimenting, you know where we are if you need a hand and as always we love to see you in your outfits.

Check me out in one of my eighties frocks..... 


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