Red, White and McCardell

July 4, 2009 • Magazine

Red, White and McCardell

Red, White and McCardell

Sat, 2009-07-04 03:00

Bonnie J Brown

Oh the joys of celebrating Independence Day! What American doesn’t enjoy a long weekend spent drinking beer around the barbeque, listening to a ball game and playing a game of bean bag toss (or something as equally as mindless)? And while some American’s were honoring our forefathers for making the holiday possible, I was silently thankful for Claire McCardell. Claire, who was named by Life magazine in 1990 as one of the most influential American’s of the 20th Century, was the driving force behind the development of what American fashion is today.

Born in 1905 in Franklin, Maryland, Claire McCardell was to become the main influencer for the modern American sportswear designer. Whether it was the casual, yet chic Ralph Lauren sundress you wore to the picnic last weekend or the Michael Kors clean cut slacks that you relaxed in at the baseball game or even the Calvin Klein bathing suit you caught some rays in by the pool, the stylish and comfortable American style you were looking to convey originated from Claire’s designs from the 1940’s and 50’s.

While Claire initially studied at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, she also studied in Paris, where she became inspired by French couture designer, Madeleine Vionnet. Madeleine was famous during the 1930’s for her Grecian style dresses; she used a bias cut which gave her garments a loose, flowing look and feel. Claire immediately fell in love with the bias cut and adapted this technique into her own designs giving her clothing a structured fit, but still allowing the wearer to move with comfort and ease.

To the untrained eye, it is almost impossible to know when Claire’s garments were made; they still look like something fashionable women would wear today. The crisp cottons, striking plaids and adorable gingham dresses, jumpers, shorts, and beach cover-ups finally gave women the chance to partake in leisure activities while still looking good. Claire’s importance as a fashion influencer is easy to see now, especially after many years of designers following her aesthetic and also the fact that she was considered by New York Times fashion writer, Bernadine Morris, as America’s “finest designer” in 1994. However, her popularity was at its peak when she was still designing clothing for the American woman. She was featured on the cover of Time magazine, was the first fashion designer to be awarded the Women’s National Press Club Award and was and still is considered to be the first American fashion designer.

While it is true that the French have their Couture and are generally on the cutting edge of fashion. And what woman doesn’t long for a little glamour in her life, no matter how painful it can be at times? But it is nice to know that American’s can celebrate fashion by maintaining a comfortably chic appearance.

1. Romper 1942
2. Playsuit 1944
3. Sundress 1943
4. Dress 1956
5. Evening Dress 1952
6. Dress 1948
7. Beachwear Two-Piece Bathing Suit 1950
8. Time Cover May 1955

Image Layout: La Tonya Williams

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