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McCardell, Claire

Claire McCardell was born in Frederick, Maryland, in 1905. She studied fashion design at the Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1928. Her first jobs were as a fit model for B. Altman and company, and as a salespersonand design assistant with Emmet Joyce on Fifth Avenue. McCardell worked for Sol Pollack (a knitwear manufacturer). In 1929, McCardell was working as a design assistant to Robert Turk, an independent designer and dressmaker, who later in the 1930s went to work for Townley Frocks as chief designer, and convinced her to follow him. In 1932, Turk died in an accident and McCardell was promoted to Chief designer at Townley. McCardell eventually became a partner and head designer for Townley. She pioneered the concept known as the American Look. She was one of the most influential women's sportswear designers of the twentieth century. McCardell's first commercial hit came in 1938 with the Monastic dress, an unfitted, waist-less shift. It became so popular that it was copied by competitors and remained in her line in updated versions for almost twenty years. McCardell was also successful in the creation of capsule dressing, a five easy pieces innovation, which became the foundation of today's mix-and-match separates concept. In 1942, her blue cotton twill weave fabric of white and blue thread with originated from the French town of Nimes, hence the origin of the word  serge de Nimes or for short de nimes. In the 20th century, denim has been used for workwear, as it is strong, durable and washable. In the 1940s it was made into fashion dresses, skirts, jackets and pants. Claire McCardell achieved international fame during her lifetime, appearing on the cover of Time magazine; and in 1957 she authored a book on her fashion philosophy, What Shall I Wear? McCardell was diagnosed with cancer in 1958, at the height of her success and died that same year.