Tips on how to dress like a 1940s Femme Fatale!
A while back I wrote an in-depth article about Femme Fatale depicted in 19th and 20th-century art focusing on literature and painting. In this, considerably lighter post, I would like to show you how to create a 1940s Femme Fatale look with original 1940s clothes, as well as modern reproductions.
I don’t believe that there is one quintessential Femme Fatale look. Black seems to always be the preferred choice for those trying to imitate the style of a Hollywood Fatale woman but I suspect that this is only because most of the iconic 1940s films were shot in black and white. I bet that you will get a bit of a shock next time you watch; The Postman Always Rings Twice, Leave Her to Heaven or Double Indemnity where the sirens wore predominantly white!
Femme Fatale look – the essentials
a woman who is very attractive in a mysterious way, usually leading men into danger or causing their destruction
2. Femme Fatale’s appearance characteristics according to me
Beautiful, mysterious, classy, irresistible, but never vulgar.
3. The clothes don’t make the man, but they are certainly a big part of why the Femme Fatale is so irresistible.
- Big 1940s shoulder pads and colossal sleeves are the perfect way to start the Femme Fatale look!
I used to hate my broad Joan Crawford-like shoulders. Now, I emphasize them with a 1940s jacket and massive shoulder pads for a very strong and dramatic look.
- A long and figure-hugging dress or skirt accessorised with a statement faux-fur piece and a tilted hat is really all you need to create a 1940s Femme Fatale look.
- That being said, a pair of 1940s, or in the style of 1940s, slacks paired with a blouse with enormous sleeves will create a similar effect.
- Don’t forget about hair and make-up! All you need is a beautiful shade of red or orange lipstick, eyeliner and false eyelashes/lengthening mascara.
- Every 1940s hairstyle I can think of will work for the Femme Fatale look so stick to what suits you best. If you are completely helpless with styling your own hair, I recommend you invest in a wig like the one below from Necia.
THE 1940’S FEMME FATALE IN FILM
MILDRED PIERCE (1945)
My “Mildred Pierce” inspired look.
The colour black is, of course, synonymous with the 1940s Femme Fatale look, and it happens to be one of my favourites. I paired the 1940s skirt suit with a faux fur collar from Helen Moore and an early 1940s brooch, a gift from my mother in law.
If you are looking for a black silk gown inspired by Gilda, the best one I’ve ever seen and tried is from the Australian brand Wheels & Dollbaby!
SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932)
It’s a much earlier film, but I had to include it as it shows the most incredible and inspiring wardrobe.
Marlene Dietrich the ultimate Femme Fatale on and off-screen.
MY MARLENE DIETRICH INSPIRED LOOKS
In the picture by Gregory Michael King, I’m wearing; a 1940s skirt and velvet cape, paired with a Couture top from Veroni Deco, a faux fur hat, a scarf and muff from Helen Moore, Wolford tights and 1950s gloves.
How to dress like a 1940s Femme Fatale. I paired my favourite 1940s top with the fabulous loafers from the German brand SPITZ.
Proper foundation garments under vintage clothes are a real game-changer. I hardly ever leave the house without one of my Orchard Corsets. I paired the mesh corset with Dita von Teese bra and Vedette underbust bra booster that prevents back bulge. The “Bleeding Heart” necktie from Abbie Walsh really ties the look together. No pond intended. 🙂
I’m wearing Wolford high waist panty, an authentic Victorian cape, Dita von Teese bra and a vintage hat designed by Irene Sharaff and worn by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest.
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946)
As you can see, the colour white can be as dramatic as black!
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945)
More inspiration for the Femme Fatale in all-white garments.
THE ONLY WHITE PIECE OF GARMENT IN MY CLOSET
Old Hollywood Glamour. My only white, or actually more of a cream evening gown inspired by the one worn bt Constance Bennet. Ironically it was her sister Joan who portrait a Femme Fatale in many films.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
Phylis Dietrichson is one of my favourite evil characters from the 1940s. Her wardrobe and hairstyle are immaculate.
MY BARBARA STANWYCK INSPIRED LOOK
In the picture, I’m wearing a 1940s skirt suit with huge shoulder pads paired with a 1940s hat with a veil. Let’s face it, at my age I should be wearing a veil all the time. 🙂
One of my all-time favourite 1940s dresses.
Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.
VINTAGE INSPIRED CLOTHES, SHOES AND HATS FOR THE PERFECT FEMME FATALE LOOK
If you are new to the world of vintage, and instead of diving right into shopping for authentic 1940s pieces, you want to start with something vintage-inspired, there are few brands I can wholeheartedly recommend.
THE HOUSE OF FOXY
The House of Foxy has many wonderful vintage-inspired clothes worthy of a Femme Fatale. I’m a big fan of their 1940s style blouses. One thing to note, I always replace contemporary buttons with original 1930s ones for a more unique look.
The House of Foxy 1940s style Pussy Bow Blouse and shirt perfect for the Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice look.
FREDDIES OF PINEWOOD
The Spellbound blouse by Freddies of Pinewood is a true wardrobe staple for the 1940s Femme Fatale look, regardless of the colour. As you can see in the picture below, I own one in a lovely shade of pink, and I’m also desperately waiting for the brand to re-stock the Burgundy-Pacific Spellbound. I paired the pink perfection with the most magnificent Edwardian inspired hat from Birds and Fresia.
BIRDS AND FRESIA
Regina Bases is a milliner extraordinaire, founder of Birds and Fresia, the brand that’s on every vintage girl’s lips.
All her hats are of superb quality, hand made and often adorned with vintage birdcage veil, silk flower and vintage organza. Definitely a show stopper!
The 1940s Femme Fatale look would be incomplete without a faux fur from Helen Moore! I can’t praise the brand high enough, and if you wonder why, take a look at my article here.
I paired the 1940s skirt suit with a luxurious faux fur stole from Helen Moore and Edwardian inspired hat from Birds and Fresia.
SIMONA RUSK HEELS
I can’t think of more perfect heels for a 1940s Femme Fatale look than the decadent Allegra designed by Simona Rusk. The British shoe brand is my recent discovery and I’m thrilled to share it with you.
How did your business journey with Simona Rusk London begin?
“The sudden loss of my mother and my own serious illness made me question what I wanted to do. I had learnt to handmake shoes for fun and was wearing a pair when I was stopped by someone who admired them. I had lost a lot of confidence when I was ill and this simple gesture was such a boost. It made me realise that this could be a way to combine my love of design, to commemorate my mom and to do something that could also make other women feel beautiful and confident.”
What was the inspiration behind my favourite Allegra shoes?
“When I wasn’t well, I would spend time at the Wallace Collection in London to lift my spirits. In part, the Allegra mule was inspired by Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s iconic painting The Swing, which hangs in this beautiful museum. This rococo masterpiece depicts a young woman kicking off a pink-silk mule while gazing at her paramour. I love the romance and whimsy of the image and the casual decadence of a mule – a style favoured by Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette.
The signature heel is inspired by a ceiling rose – in Tudor times, a rose carved into a ceiling symbolised the freedom to speak freely. In the same way, I hope my shoes are a way for women to express themselves and what makes them unique and beautiful. “
SPITZ LOAFERS & SADDLE SHOES
It’s not a secret that I’m a big fan of the German shoe-brand SPITZ, and as you can see in the pictures below, their saddle shoes and loafers go perfectly with vintage clothes and are the best alternatives for those of you ladies who can’t wear heels.
FRENCH SOLE VELVET SLIPPERS
And last but not least, my favourite luscious French Sole slippers are the quintessential footwear for lounging in the boudoir.
I didn’t choose the 1930s kimono robe and the red slippers to match my hotel room, but what a happy coincidence!
French Sole Cherub slippers and my new Diana Ribbon Collar from Hellen Moore to keep me warm.