Claire McCardell: A Fashion Designer

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Fashion designers design through their own personal character and style. Everyone has a combination of multiple characteristics that make up their personality, style, views and thoughts, etc. A person’s own personal character cannot be duplicated. Anyone has the ability to show their talents through their own persona to many different types of industries. Having the ambition of becoming a high fashion designer is not impossible. Successful designers create designs through their own personal perception.

People all over the world phony their personal temperament due to the media, advertisements, latest trends, etc. One cannot succeed as a designer if their character is an imposter, for which their designs will be criticized as “all ready been seen. ” Claire McCardell had her own personal qualities that have inspired multiple trends here today. As an adult, Claire states “it wasn’t me in the clothes, or just wearing them, that interested me—it was the clothes in relation to me—how changed I felt once in them” (Steele, p 9).

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Claire McCardell was a small town girl born on May 24, 1905, in Frederick, Maryland. She grew up to be America’s most American designer (Steele p. 13). Her interest in clothes and designs were passed on from her mother. In the late 1920’s, Claire’s impassive striking appearance, eccentric stance, and irregular hairstyles lead her as a model for B. Altman’s and numerous Seventh Avenue showrooms. Having been influenced by both parents, she developed her personal character and design aesthetic. She grew up to be an independent woman with an American attitude towards fashion.

As an American designer, Claire was described as having introduced “the American look” that differentiates Dior’s New Look of 1947 (Yohannan and Nolf p. 1). She is recognized by having created an American style of casual dress in the twentieth century. She refused to look at Paris couture designs and collections as she feared it might influence her in a direction she did not want to go as an American designer. Claire’s collections were designed for the American ready-to-wear industry; clothes that were stylish and affordable.

Claire’s collection of clothes are compared to the more lavish and formal collections of the Paris couture; simple, sparing, and shy. She grew inspiration through the work of Madeleine Vionnet, the French couturi? re, who was granted to be the greatest dressmaker of the twentieth century (Steele p. 11).

Claire’s significant collections, donated by her brothers, are showed at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The museum holds fifty of Claire McCardell’s creations that are now the most important pieces in the fashion industry today.

Her designs, sometimes known as “McCardellisms,” includes her signature metal fastenings, double rows of topstitching, spaghetti string ties, long sashes, wrap-and-tie separates, and menswear details. She had a liking to the latest [high-tech performance fabrics] that included stain-proof and elasticized stretch cottons in which she designed a variety of different style types of clothing all characterized by her casual and easy elegance. Her clothing collection was made up of day dresses, play clothes, suits, coats, evening gowns, and active sportswear (Steele p. 8).

Her innovations became inherent to modern fashion to which she developed a system of interchangeable separates. Her expansion in design was an idea that would be literally decades ahead of time. Valerie Steele stated “it is impossible to imagine a Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, or a Marc Jacobs had there not first been Claire McCardell (Steele p. 13).

Claire McCardell’s innovations inspire me by the way she looked at fashion; ready-to-wear, affordable, casual, frugal. Her ideas enhance my secret dreams of designing. Her simple designs and styles are vigorous to my ideas for a possible future collection.

Claire’s creations entitle designing from your own personal character, not the character that’s an imposter by dressing to the latest trend because it is the style of that time. Pages of her own life gave her design inspiration: love of sports, her admiration of men’s clothing, and her own athletic, all-American good looks (Steele p. 9).

I compare her inspirations to mine and see my mantra of artwork, designs, and styles to be so similar. She is what makes her collections different through the types of her clothing designs and styles, and how her pieces were posed and photographed by models. Standing out and being noticed through her sketches, designs, styles, persona, and the posing of her pieces is what made her become who she was; America’s most American designer.

Claire McCardell was a very important figure in the fashion industry. Her accomplishments of developing the system of interchangeable separates are part of the top leading fashion trends today. Claire inspired her collections through the way her clothes changed how she felt in them and the relation between her and her clothes.

Without Claire McCardell, American casual dress would have a completely different style and look which could either benefit or not the fashion industry. Claire influenced the industry and its entirety. She was America’s most American designer and is part of the rising of the fashion trends today due to her popular designs and styles.

Works Cited 

  1. Steele, Valerie. “McCardell’s American Look. “
  2. Introduction. Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism. By Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Nolf.
  3. Ed. Ruth A Peltason. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. -13.


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Claire McCardell: A Fashion Designer. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from

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