The 1940s were ushered in with Europe in the midst of World War II. Women played a dual role during these dark years; they were both strong and independant, working for the war effort, or fulfilling a romantic role for men in the treches dreaming of what they were fighting for. Fashion was forced to adapt to an uncertain situation, and many women took a hands on approach to dressing. Many unique style icons emerged in the forties due to their highly individual and inventive approach to style. Here are my favorite forties ladies.
1. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an incredibly influential jazz singer and songwriter, and a tragic, romantic artist. Her life was fraught with abuse, addiction and depression, yet her unconventional voice struck a chord with many during the dark war years. Holiday was a powerful, emotional performer who walked a fine line between toughness and fragility. 'Lady Day' was a fashion icon in her own right; her highly feminine style of dress (always with red lips and a white flower in her hair) contrasted amazingly with her strong personality.
2. Ava Gardner
Ava Gardener rose to fame with her vampy role in The Killers (1946) in which she appeared in a black slinky dress "...setting the world on fire..." She was the quintessential pin up girl of the war years, and although she never gave herself credit as an actress, she had a great influence on the voluptuous ideal of the forties. She was as glamorous off screen as she was on, and was romantically linked to such men as Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra. In many of her film roles from the decade she played the femme fatale, the beautiful yet dark spider woman who devours men without remorse.
3. Juliette Greco
Juliette Greco emerged on the Parisian scene in the years immediately following the end of the Nazi occupation of France. After years of oppression and censorship, Paris was free and the youth of the city flocked to St Germain des Pres on Paris' Left Bank to celebrate. Greco was one of these youth, but her dark beauty and chic head to toe black ensembles left many artists and intellectuals infatuated (including Boris Vian, Jean Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau). She was pale skinned, with long straight hair and kohl rimmed eyes; she exuded bohemian style and sensibility. Greco would become a huge star in France in the coming decades, yet she never lost her artistic bohemian allure