As you may remember from Monday’s post, I’m using one of my favorite designers (or maybe my favorite…there, I said it) as inspiration for this week’s dress. I think it’s safe to assume that there are a lot of people out there who have never heard of Claire McCardell (1905 – 1958) — I literally heard her name for the first time four years ago in my History of Fashion class.
I thought this quintessential American designer was due for some attention, so today I’ll be showcasing some photographs of her designs from the book Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Wolfe. My copy arrived in the mail last week and I haven’t been able to put it down. I decided to share some of my favorite photos with you….and before I knew it, I had scanned nearly the entire book.
Feast your eyes, friends! Do you find her as inspiring as I do?
The thing I love about Claire McCardell is how active her clothes were. At a time when most women were still wearing corsets, she believed that women could be active beings who swam, sweat, ran, and played. She appreciated chic simplicity, which makes her clothes effortless and timeless.
Her contributions to swimwear is what really blows my mind. Before her, women were swimming in full-length wool dresses, for Pete’s sake! She introduced new fabrics and silhouettes into swimwear, and the beach has never been the same.
Claire McCardell has been called the ‘First Great American Designer’, and is often attributed for the success of her predecessors like Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein. Which is why it made me somewhat sad that she isn’t more appreciated these days. Her name isn’t on the tip of our tongue like, say, Chanel or Balenciaga. However, it wasn’t until I did some reading that I realized why.
You’ll never go into a high-end vintage boutique and see a Claire McCardell original hanging next to Dior or Chanel pieces from the same era– because they didn’t survive. Their original owners wore them out. Unlike the French couture counterparts of her day, Claire McCardell’s pieces were worn to the beach, the park, family picnics, birthday parties, special events, over and over again until they were literally worn out. The largest collection of her clothing is preserved at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and most of the pieces showed evidence of several alterations and mending, revealing that the wearer had tailored the dress to fit their changing shape over decades, or possibly passed garments down to their daughters. In my mind, that is a great legacy for any designer; to know that your garments signified wear-ability and timelessness, resulting in decades of use and enjoyment.
Hope you enjoyed! See you later this week when I reveal my McCardell-esque creation!
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