Today is the first day of Autumn! I love the change of seasons, simply because I can move into my warm and cuddly clothes. Dressing in the 1940s during fall and winter gave women many choices besides pretty dresses to wear in cooler weather. “More 1940s casual outfit ideas” is a common theme in some of the discussion groups I follow, so with that, I turned to my ever growing collection of catalogs and photographs and looked for 1940s casual outfit ideas that are doable today.
1940s Casual Outfit: Plaid Skirts
Plaid knee length skirts are a classic 1940s clothing item worn almost daily by teens and women. Paired with a blouse, short sleeve knit top, or thin sweater, the outfit can be worn in spring as well as fall. In the photo above they also topped the outfit with a wool blazer or sport coat. A short leather or suede jacket could also be worn as an outer layer, skipping the big and heavy winter coats.
These types of jackets are less likely to be made by 1940s reproduction clothing companies, so keep an eye out for vintage jackets.
Knit tops, sweaters, and cardigans are a must for any fall/winter layering. They can be paired with skirt and pants on their own or under coats and jackets. The twin sweater set pairs two layers of knits together (short sleeve knit top and long sleeve cardigan) in matching or contrasting colors. Plain long sleeve sweaters came in a rainbow of ’40s colors with modest necklines and a banded hem and sleeve cuffs. I love the novelty prints the best (deer, trees, Fair Isle, bows, animals, ribbon) but solid colors (green, red, yellow, grey, blue) are more versatile.
1940s Casual Outfit: Slacks
High waist and wide leg slacks or dressy pants were the latest and greatest freedom for women in the 1940s. Slack /dressy pants could be dressed up or down and made in summer or winter friendly fabrics. For fall, I like heavier fabrics (wool, cotton, corduroy) or lighter fabrics but with a warm pair of stockings or even modern leggings underneath. Most casual outfits with slacks favor button down blouses in solid, check, or plaid patterns tucked into the waistband.
Knit tops and sweaters could also be paired with slacks, as well as a wool or leather blazer topped over both. The combinations of colors and patterns are endless. I prefer bright colors, so my favorite pairings are blue and red or green and yellow. The peach blouse with herringbone tan pants above is one for the shopping list!
1940s Casual Outfit: Jeans
Denim jeans, especially dark denim jeans with contrast stitching, are the base of the vintage 1940s workwear look. Women wore these jeans for factory jobs or at home in the garden. In the fall, the best shirt was a men’s style work shirt: flannel button down plaid or neutral color shirts. A western style buckle belt was often necessary to hold them up around the hipline. A folded up cuff was optional.
Workwear type jackets also copied menswear. The plaid flannel shirt-jac was loose and boxy, with a straight hem. It was used for all kinds of physical jobs. Lightweight twill zip up jackets were a nice option for moderate weather. The banded bottom “bomber” style jacket in leather, suede, gabardine, canvas or wool was the sportier option. Many women simply wore a men’s version rather than paying extra for a women’s cut.
1940s Casual Outfit: Overalls
A button down shirt and denim overalls (or corduroy, canvas, cotton) is another classic workwear or casual daywear outfit. They always remind me of Rosie the Riveter outfits. In the above picture, she is wearing a short sleeve covert cloth or chambray shirt with classic ’40s puff sleeves. A long sleeve button down shirt (women’s or men’s) with sleeves rolled up would be a warmer way to wear a fall outfit. Consider a coordinating denim chore jacket as a light weight coat. I plan to wear something like this to the Pumpkin Patch/Fall Harvest Festival this year.
1940s Casual Outfit: Ski Clothes
Here are very winter friendly ski outfits. Unlike dress pants, women’s wool snow pants with cloth lining were very warm and weatherproof. They had a classic high waist, full hip, tapered leg and an elastic foot strap (stirrup) to keep them snugly in ski boots. Add snow boots and thick socks to complete the bottom half.
For the top, Canadian early 1940s ski jackets had an elastic waist to keep out the cold and snow. Many were quilted like the ones above. For Americans, they stuck to a belted wool jacket, sometimes with an attached hood. Underneath were a few layers of knit tops and a winter patterned sweater.
1940s Casual Outfit: Jumper Dresses
Shirtwaist dresses (shirtwaisters) made in heavy winter friendly fabrics like corduroy, wool, cotton twill, spun rayon, and others have a natural fall or winter look to them. They can be hard to find, but wonderful to have in a seasonal collection. Looks for other dresses with long sleeves in the 1940s style here (USA) and in the UK here.
Not all dresses in the 1940s were dressy dresses. In fall and winter, the jumper dress (pinafore dress) was a popular casual style because it could be layered over a short or long sleeve white blouse. I have never seen them placed over a knit top or sweater, but plenty of cardigan sweaters were tossed over the blouse and jumper.
Corduroy is one of those amazing fall fabrics that goes in and out of fashion. It is warm, durable, and very vintage to the 1940s. I am including it here as a reminder to consider all separates and dresses in corduroy.
1940s Casual Outfit: Housecoats
There have been many discussions about COVID fashion involving a return to the wearing of vintage housecoats. What a great idea! 1940s housecoats Similar to robes, but usually with a zip or button closed front (some are wrap overs like a robe), housecoats are as pretty as dresses but as comfy as a winter robe. They are a great way to wear long dresses in fall (since most 1940s day dresses were knee length). You don’t need to buy a vintage housecoat (which are now going up in price), but you can look for a puff sleeve long dress with a full swishy skirt. Many of the current boho/peasant/90s floral inspired dresses would work quite well for a ’40s housecoat look.
1940s Casual Outfit: Accessories
A few key accessories can make a 1940s casual fall outfit special:
- Stockings – Winter weight stockings or tights (ice skating tights, wool, or velvet) and even leggings can keep your legs from freezing!
- Socks – Both short ankle socks and tall knee socks were popular options with teens and young women. Wear them with casual low heel shoes.
- Scarf – A neck scarf can we wrapped around the neck, crossed in front and tucked under jacket lapels. See more scarf ideas.
- Collar – A faux blouse collar or dicky is a great way to add a touch of white and keep necks warm without the bulk of a full blouse.
- Hair Scarf – A head scarf or babushka was a very important hair accessory. Tie it around your head and under the shin. Learn more here.
- Hat – Hats like the turbans, knit or felt berets, and knit ski hats are all good, easy ’40s style winter hats you can find easily.
- Gloves – Mid arm length gloves were critical to ’40s outfits. Learn more.
- Winter coat – I have written about these here.
1940s Fall and Winter Shoes
Footwear in winter in a vintage style is one of the trickiest things to find. If you live in mild, dry weather, your best option are low heel Oxfords, penny loafers or slip-on moccasin type shoes. Saddle shoes are also a fun option. If these easy to wear shoes have no holes or perforations and come in a water resistant leather, they can also be worn in wet city weather without much issue. Very rainy or muddy weather may have you stepping up into rain boots, lace up hiking boots, or snow boots. I have written about winter boots here.
Inside, why not a fuzzy pair of vintage slippers?
Shop 1940s shoes for all seasons.
That wraps up this article. If you haven’t seen in already, read my first article 1940s-1950s fall outfit ideas.
I will have more articles coming put about 1950s fall/winter fashions as well as my tips on how to stay extra warm while wearing winter outfits. Stay tuned!