I'm the biggest old movie fan ever -- as if you didn't already know -- and one of my treasures is a small collection of vintage movie magazines in fantastic condition which I bought many years ago, for something like $1 each, on the street from some guy who must have found them in a dumpster and just wanted to move them fast. (Longest MPB sentence ever.)
I don't look at them often these days, but I thought now might be a good time to take another peek and share one with you.
So let's go back to September 1940. War was in the air, though the United States hadn't been drawn directly into the conflict yet. But these were anxious times both politically and economically. For most Americans, the Depression lingered.
This was Hollywood's Golden Era, as audiences -- largely but not exclusively women -- sought escapist entertainment, and Hollywood delivered. This was also the heyday of the movie magazine. There's nothing tacky about this 1940 Photoplay;it's more like Vogue than The National Enquirer. While most of the content is focused on films and film stars, the advertising (aside from film ads) is primarily for fashion and grooming products.
Nail polish was big...
As was fur.
New stretch synthetics were coming on the market and changing the look of underwear!
There's less advertising than in magazines of the Fifties and Sixties, but there was also less to buy -- and less to buy it with.
Tailored suits were popular, for both the young and the not-so-young.
The youthful ideal was to dress like Deanna Durbin, Bonita Granville, or starlet Linda Darnell. Can you believe these modest fashions were for teenagers (though the term had yet to enter the vernacular)?!
Needless to say, nobody ever flashed anything, ever. Or if they did, we didn't hear about it. As for tattoos and piercings...fuggitaboutit. Pleats and tucks, however, were everywhere.
As you can see, fashion in 1940 was largely about looking elegant and "well-bred." Styles were dictated by major fashion houses who took their inspiration from Paris. Even for the young, the ideal was a mature look: glamorous but grounded in reality (as opposed to the mid-century "Populuxe" perfect housewife fantasy).
Here's dancer Eleanor Powell...
skater Sonja Henie...
actress Myrna Loy (very much the ideal wife type).
Evening wear was more glamorous, of course. Here's Loretta Young...
and luscious Hedy Lamarr, who was at her peak at this time.
This was also the peak era of Ginger Rogers (who won her Oscar in 1940). Ginger personified the ideal woman of the period: an earthy but glamorous girl next door. Ginger was accessible and all-American -- and brunette: her brassier blonde days were over (for now).
There's definitely an air of sobriety in 1940, with much more to come in the next few years.
I love the designs of this period and the tailored details of the clothes. Fit in the bodice is largely carried out through soft gathers and yokes.
Women's fashions of the period don't fetishize tiny waists, curvy hips, or prominent bosoms. The strong V-shape, with its exaggerated shoulders, starts showing up, though the late-Thirties, milkmaid-style puffy sleeve is still popular.
Friends, what do you think? Are these not the most elegant women's fashions of the last century?
You can see more photos of my 1940 Photoplay here.
Thanks for traveling with me and have a great day, everybody!
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!