McCardell, Claire

(1906-1958)
   Born in Frederick, Maryland, Claire McCardell attended Hood College before pursuing a career in fashion that began at the Parsons School of Design, followed by a one-year stint in Paris. Upon graduation in 1928, McCardell held several jobs ranging from fit model to sales assistant before landing a job as a designer for knitwear manufacturer Sol Pollack. In 1929, she met Robert Turk and became his assistant at Townley Frocks, until his tragic death in 1932. After his death, McCardell was named chief designer where she stayed for most of her career, later becoming a partner in the company. McCardell's design philosophy pioneered the concept known as the American Look, that is, uncomplicated, comfortable clothing for the casual American lifestyle. Her design philosophy was in sharp contrast to her European counterparts of the 1940s, whose clothes were fitted, fussy, decorated, and tailored. Having spent a year in Paris, McCardell gained firsthand experience about French fashion, haute couture, and the complexity of garment construction which is why she chose to rebel and to create clothes that were affordable, relaxed, and had mass-market appeal. McCardell took an innovative approach to fashion and was the originator of lifestyle-dressing. She is known for using worker and farmer uniforms as inspiration and was also famous for her wrap and tie styles. She created the timeless and highly copied Monastic dress, a bias cut shift dress. Her "five easy pieces" concept was the foundation for today's mix-and-match sportswear category and her "popover dress" was the chic precursor to the "housedress." Perhaps her most remembered designs were those in wool jersey which were seasonless, casually chic and easy-care. However, other fabric choices such as denim, gingham and cotton calico demonstrated her unpretentious approach to fashion, yet were considered quite stylish. Before, during, and immediately following World War II, McCar-dell and other American designers such as Tina Leser and Bonnie Cashin were promoted by Lord &Taylor's then-president, Dorothy Shaver. The American Look began to receive international acclaim after the war and eventually became the catalyst for the sportswear industry as we know it today. Before her death in 1958, McCardell was featured on the cover of Time magazine and authored a book, What Shall I Wear?
   See also Separates.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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