For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by black and white movies. And as I grow older, they don’t lose an ounce of their magic. In fact, if anything, they seem even more alluring and spellbinding. Whether it’s a screwball comedy, film noir, or a drama, I find them all so captivating and inspiring. Notably, when it comes to the fashion depicted on screen. The elegant cuts of the mid-1930s clothing and creativity of the early 1940s have always been a personal favorite of mine. Influenced by historical events, these eight years of fashion pack so much into such a short period. But that is a lengthy subject for historians and one I won’t be tackling today. Instead, I wanted to focus on specific pieces of clothing from a few select movies. These are films I often return to because of their storyline, but it doesn’t hurt to look at beautiful clothing either! You’ll probably recognize styles that are still in fashion today or that might make a comeback soon. Either way, I hope you enjoy my favorite outfits from classic films!

Carole Landis wearing a sportigan in Moon Over Miami

Puff-sleeved sweater

One of my favorite pieces of clothing, the puff-sleeved sweater perfectly represents what I love most about the late 1930s and early 1940s clothing. The perfectly shaped puff sleeves! This is an element that the 1980s borrowed and in my opinion, completely ruined. I see it used in today’s fast-fashion clothing but it can’t compare. The 1940s cut and knitting technique was different, not to mention that it was knitted with wool by hand, and not on a machine like today. Either way, I absolutely adore the sweater Barbara Stanwyck wears in Remember the Night! What’s most fascinating about these sleeves is that they didn’t have any kind of padding, they were simply knitted in a way that gave them this perfect shape. However, it varied in shape depending on the decade. Sometimes the puff was high on the sleeve or nearer the elbow.

Puff-sleeved sweater, one of my favorite outfits from classic films

Another variation of it was the Austrian cardigan, worn here by Myrna Loy. I wasn’t able to find any of the outfits from classic films, only publicity portraits similar to this one. So technically, this one doesn’t quite fit the subject but I couldn’t skip it over. As the name says, the cardigans were inspired by folk motifs from Austria and Bavaria. While this had a big revival in the 1970s and 1980s, they never came close to the originals from the 1940s. The details and knitting techniques made them all unique. Nowadays, they’re rather hard to find and tend to be quite costly due to their rarity.

Pinafore

Pinafores have a long history dating back a long time, as a type of apron. During the 20th century, they gained popularity through Hollywood movies. From there on, their design evolved, with slight changes happening every few years. Nowadays, we think of a pinafore as a dress one can wear with or without a blouse underneath. We can see the perfect example of that in the first film. Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor, a film where she pretends to be a 12-year-old. Which is a perfect example of how pinafores used to be considered a sort of uniform for little girls.

Pinafore, one of my favorite outfits from classic films

On the other hand, we have Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner, a movie I wrote about here. This is where the evolution of the pinafore is most visible. While she wears a pinafore over a polka dot blouse, the style has certainly been modernized. And you can notice the same thing on the pinafore Katharine Hepburn wears in Woman of the Year. The influence of the 1940s fashion took the concept of a pinafore and adapted it to its quirky period. I love all three examples of a pinafore and can’t really choose a favorite! I must admit that I love wearing it over bishop-sleeved blouses in order to juxtapose the sharp lines with flowy ones.

Pinafore, one of my favorite outfits from classic films
Pinafore, one of my favorite outfits from classic films

Loungewear

1930s are famous for going all out on loungewear. The designs were lavish and bold, treating loungewear as if you planned on wearing it outside your home. Naturally, the movies from the same period only perpetuated and accentuated that by dressing its stars in glamorous outfits. All of them worn before bedtime or for lounging around on a day off. One of those is the robe Myrna Loy wears in I Love You Again. Sumptuous design, flattering and elegant cut, the end result is absolutely splendid. I love the fact that a garment most people couldn’t care less about today, was given so much attention back then. Why not make yourself feel special on an uneventful day at home?

Jodhpurs

Out of all the outfits from classic films listed here, jodhpurs are probably the most peculiar item. Essentially, they were the original sportswear. Since elastic fabrics hadn’t been invented yet, people used to wear jodhpurs for horse-riding, hiking, and similar activities. They are tight-fitting under the knee and flare around the hips. The extra fabric provides the comfort needed while sitting in the saddle or climbing up mountains. Bette Davis was often clad in jodhpurs in some of her 1930s and 1940s films and always looked amazing in them. Among them were Dark Victory, The Great Lie, and others. Myrna Loy also wears a pair in The Rains Came, in this case, paired with a blazer.

Jodhpurs, one of my favorite outfits from classic films
Jodhpurs, one of my favorite outfits from classic films

Generally speaking, outfits that include jodhpurs immediately give off an archaeologist or explorer vibe. Notably when paired with a casual linen shirt in neutral tones. Basically, a style to aspire to, in my opinion! I find jodhpurs to be fascinating and wish I could find the perfect pair one day. Alas, I am much taller than the average person in the 1930s so finding a pair that fits is quite the struggle.

Jodhpurs, one of my favorite outfits from classic films

In the end, there are many outfits from classic films that I have fallen in love with over the years. But I tried to make a structured post that presents the garments and explains them as well. Personally, I own a 1940s puff-sleeved sweater and I absolutely adore it! However, I also have one that was hand-knitted in wool by a talented lady and if you didn’t know better, you could mistake it for an original. And at this point, my closet is overflowing with pinafores of different designs. They’ve quickly become my favorite kind of dress because of their versatility. Worn with layers over and under it during the winter, you can just throw on a pinafore during the hot summer months.

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