40's How to achieve The Look: Fashion

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Indy Lifestyle Online
nyone who has watched Casablanca will have felt pangs of nostalgia for an era when people changed for cocktails or afternoon tea, and a hat was worn at all times. All you had to do was make sure your seams were straight and your hat pin matched your shoes, and it was all so, so perfect.

Fans of the Forties, the men and women who still like to dress the part and dance the night away to Glenn Miller, will go to any lengths to capture the right shape of shoe, the authentic print, or lapel but original Forties clothing is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find. Help is at hand, however, in the form of Hilary Wili, who specialises in making copies of clothing from the Twenties to the present day. "People love the glamour of it - and part of that glamour is having something made especially for them," she says. She will copy an outfit from any film or picture. Requests for the Evita look have not filtered through yet, but no doubt they will.

Whatever your dream, whatever your shape or size, she will oblige with simple little Utility blouses, tiny floral prints (important during wartime because a print would not show up the dirt and need constant washing), military-style tailored suits (for men or women), tea dresses, floral day frocks, double-breasted suits, Hawaiian shirts or zipper jackets. She has customers who are building up whole wardrobes of Forties replicas. She has even made a suit for a bridegroom who fancied himself as Humphrey Bogart.

"Most people want clothes they can wear again and again, that can be mended and washed," says Wili. She finds good reproductions of fabrics that look like the real thing, but have the advantage of being modern and therefore hard- wearing. The result is clothes that look vintage but don't have to be treated as antiques.

If having an Evita-style, New Look gown made just for you seems a little extravagant, there is always the option of hiring from vintage clothes shops or film and theatrical costumiers such as Angels & Bermans in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. Steinberg & Tolkein, the vintage clothing emporium on the King's Road, is also a treasure trove. Stock was depleted after visits from Madonna and Evita costume designer Penny Rose, but there is still a lot to choose from.

Second-hand clothing dealers are aware of Christian Dior's 50th anniversary this year, and of the consequent resurgence of interest in Forties style. But if you don't want to look like you have just stepped out of a time machine, there are ways of alluding to the period without taking it too literally. Young British designer Owen Gaster has designed a tweed suit that has the formal tailoring of the Forties but also the angular cut of 1997. A pair of Jonathan Aston's sheer stockings, with a brightly coloured seam running the length, is even cheaper. Hilary Wili 1940s Classic and Western Clothing (0171- 498 9132)

Make-up Cathy Lomax at Debbie Walters

Hair Malcolm Edwards for Toni & Guy using TiGi

Model Charlotte C