Currently Reading: Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism

I usually don’t spend a lot of time writing about designers as well known as Claire McCardell because it’s really hard to find something new to add to her already well-documented career.  But since I decided to make a play set using a Claire McCardell design from 1957, I’ve spent some time examining photos of her work, and re-reading this marvelous study of her career.

Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism was written in 1998 by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Nolf.  It’s part biography, part fashion history, with a great mix of vintage photos and modern photos showing her clothes on museum mannequins.  It all works to provide an excellent survey of what made her work so special.  Just by studying the photographs one can get a pretty good idea of what is meant by “McCardellisms” – the techniques she turned to again and again.

After a quick look at Amazon I was hesitant to even write about this book, as it is long out of print and quite pricey.  Still, it is well worth trying to track down a copy at a decent price.  I bought mine several years ago at a book discounter.

Expect this new-found interest in McCardell to continue over the next week.  I’m almost finished with the sewing project and will be showing it off very soon.

The halter top of this dress is very similar to the top I’m making.

I have three McCardell’s in my collection, including this jacket in a green herringbone.  I found it in a thrift store, and then proceeded to tear the place apart looking for the matching skirt.  No such luck.

This bodice is from McCardell’s last collection, summer 1958.  My set has similar white top-stitching.

And finally, a few wool jersey swimsuits.


Filed under Currently Reading

4 responses to “Currently Reading: Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism

  1. Now you absolutely must get ahold of a copy of “What Shall I Wear?”, written by Claire McCardell in 1956. I’ve had my copy since I was 14. The illustrations alone are worth the price of admission, and you will love hearing her fashion philosophy in her own words.


    • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been out-bid at ebay for that book. The going price for it is now over $250! Still, I keep hoping I’ll run across a copy in one of my regular shopping places, like the Goodwill.

      Several years ago there were plan to re-release the book. I even pre-ordered it on Amazon. Somehow the project fell through, darn it.


  2. Become very interested in her work lately myself. I do like the halter dress.


  3. Pingback: McCall’s 4494: Claire McCardell Play Set | The Vintage Traveler

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