A 1940s Style Mom Wardrobe

I was excited when Juliana offered to write a guest post, because she wears 1940s style clothes every day!  The idea seemed really radical to me at first, but it made more sense as I thought about how classy and put-together women of that era managed to look, even as they raised a whole bunch of babies (the Baby Boomers, to be precise).

Juliana has a background in Soviet history and is now a stay-at-home mother to four young children. She navigates simple urban living in a small Victorian-era row home with a growing family and blogs about it all at Urban Simplicity

vintage 1940s mom wardrobe

I’ve had five babies in six years, and my body isn’t what it once was.  After my daughter was born in 2011, I was in a bad place.  I started reading the Ain’t No Mom Jeans blog in a desperate attempt to find ways to feel better about the way I looked.  I wanted to feel nice in my clothing, and I just didn’t.  Everything felt wrong, either too big or too small, and frumpy. I got some ideas from the blog, but I always had the vague sense that I was trying on something that didn’t suit me. 

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Somewhere along the way, I ran across the vintage blogging world, and I was hooked.  I decided then and there I was done with modern fashion and going to dress in a 1940s style.  At the time, I had a four year old, a 19 month old and a very sick four month old baby.  Pursuing a 1940s look gave me an outlet from all the stress of my daughter’s chronic illness and hospital stays, and gave me a research outlet; I had given up academia for diaper duty when my eldest was born. 

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Almost two years into this gig, I love it.  I’ve gone through another pregnancy and birth and this post-partum period has been the best so far for feeling better about the way I look.  I’ve joined some awesome Facebook groups for fellow vintage enthusiasts, and rediscovered knitting and sewing after a long hiatus.

vintage 1940s mom wardrobe

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1940s style is extremely practical and completely compatible with having small children.  After all, fashion during the war years was geared for women who were doing heavy work in munitions factories, manual labor on farms, and everything in between.  Their clothes had to stand up to the wear and tear!

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I wrote recently about my vintage fashion journey (with photos of some summer outfits), but it is cooler now, and I tend toward separates for fall and winter.  I don’t wear pants, as they tend not suit my figure, although I’m thinking of saving up for a pair of Freddie’s jeans for the spring (or possibly making a pair myself).  I have a handful of just-below-the-knee skirts (for me this is about 25-26” long), a handful of light-weight knit pullovers, a handful of button-down blouses with butterfly collars, and a handful of heavy weight sweaters.  I wear Foot Traffic cotton tights in Heather Mocha to keep my legs warm, or lighter weight nude tights.

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I buy vintage from etsy sellers mostly, although I’ve gotten lucky at thrift stores now and again.  I don’t strictly buy 1940s clothing, however, as old clothing is fragile given the age of the fabric (and tends to be expensive for something that can’t stand up to heavy wear).  Instead, I look for 1970s/1980s-does1940s-style clothing as it tends to be in better shape and sized more for the modern figure.  I do wear foundation garments to make my clothes fit/look better, but with 1970s/1980s era clothing, I don’t have to.  I’ve also bought modern clothing that has vintage styling to it, but it has taken a while to train my eye to spot the proper details on a modern piece. This fall, I sewed a few pieces for myself, and have big plans for sewing more garments in the future.

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1940s styling is mostly in the details—regular pin curl wet sets for hair, good foundation garments (panty girdles are a must!), brooches and earrings for jewelry, sturdy shoes.  I stick to button down or surplice necklines to make breastfeeding easy, but am looking forward to the day when I can get some of my non-breastfeeding friendly dresses back out of storage!

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For me, dressing this way makes me feel good about the way I look every day, and the journey of rediscovering old ways of dressing is part of the joy of it.

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7 thoughts on “A 1940s Style Mom Wardrobe

  1. Juliana, this is so inspiring and wonderful. Thank you so much for this. I’m going to check out your blog. Laura, this is such a great series. Thank you!

  2. I like the yellow/navy blue outfit a lot. And that’s interesting what she said about foundation garments. I don’t own any yet, but I’m sure that would help a lot with slimming the post-postpartum belly area. Even when I’ve lost all my pregnancy weight, the shape of my body always looks different.

  3. This is neat. And I like that you noted that pants tend not to suit your figure. Simply forgoing pants because you realize they aren’t flattering to certain body types is admirably radical. Pants are just so prevalent and it seems people of all shapes and sizes believe they can look great in them provided that they find the right style. Maybe, but I think those of us who are hopelessly pear shaped are just plain going to look more balanced in skirts like the ones you are wearing. They are much more forgiving than any kind of pants ever will be. (And more comfortable than some jeans, to boot. My problem is finding shoes in the winter that look good with more casual skirts. I never know if I am going too formal or too sneakers-y.)

    • Yeah, pants have to fit exactly right in so many places: waist, hip, rise, thigh, inseam . . . . With skirts it’s just waist and hips . . .. length too, but that doesn’t have to be exact the way pants’ hems do.

      • She’s not alone! I very very rarely wear pants. I have a pair of white ones I love, one pair of jeans I wear when desperate, and some I wear when I am on long international flights. That’s IT.
        The fact is, pants aren’t flattering on me and I live in a tropical climate, where people are supposed to just walk around naked. Since that’s not appreciated by the modern world, skirts are my only option.
        I started sporting clogs with casual skirts in wintertime and have shockingly loved it. Even though my legs aren’t my best feature (i.e., no one would say I have dainty ankles), it looks cute – especially with crew neck sweaters (that I only wear when I visit lovely places like, oh, Buffalo NY).
        Embrace a life sans pants! It’s easier than you think!

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