Tag Archives: McCall’s 4494

McCall’s 4494: Claire McCardell Play Set

And here, as promised is the end result of my latest vintage sewing project.   The pattern dates to 1958, the last year of McCardell’s life.  It looks like a playsuit, but this is actually two pieces – shorts and halter.

In approaching this project, I wanted to make the pieces as close to actual McCardell garments as possible.  I started by rereading Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Nolf.  Then I went on a web search for images of garments that would be similar to the pieces I’d be making.  McCardell is very well represented in many museum collections, and thanks to the idea of the on-line gallery, I was able to locate not only two play sets that are similar to mine, but I was also able to closely study the details on these sets and other McCardell garments.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art site turned out to be the most useful, due to multiple photographs of garments of interest.  I first found a halter and skirt that looked interesting:

copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I went to the Met site, I was pleased to find that this set also included a top and pleated shorts.  It dates to 1944, and was donated to the Met’s Costume Institute by McCardell in 1949.

Those lucky people at the Met have another set, this one with a one-piece playsuit and matching jacket and skirt.  It dates to 1943.

copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wrote about how McCardell kept using ideas that worked, and these two designs along with my pattern is a great example of that design philosophy.  The structure of the shorts is basically the same in my pattern as what she used fifteen years prior, as is the shape of my halter and the 1943 design.

So what were the McCardellisms that I used in making these pieces?  First was my choice of fabric.  I wanted to use a cotton with some texture so that the bias cut would be obvious.  I also wanted to use a dark solid which would contrast nicely with the top-stitching.

In both of the play sets I found McCardell used white buttons.  I decided to go with another typical McCardell design feature, that of using metal buttons.  She loved the look of brass and often used brass hooks and buttons.

I liked the way the buttons were sewn on in a cross, and so I used that to attach my buttons as well. The red is the lining of the halter.  I like the way the red barely peeps out at the edges.

I took this photo before I finished the waist closing, but I changed the pattern which had a square button tab, to the arrow shaped one.  Yes, I did copy that feature from the two skirts and the shorts in the Met collection.

Sorry about the lack of a live model, but I’ll try to get some shots of me wearing it next month when we are at the beach.

As a side note:  I finally have found a constructive use for Pinterest.  That site was just as good at providing photos of McCardell garments as Google images, and there weren’t any random photos of this, that and the other thing.



Filed under Sewing

1958 Claire McCardell Separates

Maybe it the fact than in the past few days every single bathing suit and shorts set ever designed by Claire McCardell has been showing up on Pinterest and Facebook, or maybe it’s just that I really, really need something new to wear at the beach when we go next month, but I keep looking at her designs and thinking about how perfect they are.

Even if I were lucky enough to find the McCardell bathing suit of my dreams, I’d never wear it.  But it dawned on me today that I can have a McCardell of my own to wear.  You see, I have the pattern.

I’ve actually had this pattern for years, pulled out of the pattern drawer at a Salvation Army thrift that’s been closed for at least 10 years.   I’ve sold a lot of patterns over the past years, but this one was never in the sell pile.

Claire McCardell only did a few patterns for McCall’s, all in 1957 .  My pattern was released for summer 1958, probably around the time McCardell died in March of that year.  She also did patterns for Spadea in the early to mid 1950s.

It you look carefully at the illustration, you will see that except for the skirt, these pieces are cut on the bias.  And as you might expect from a McCardell sportswear design, there is topstitching galore.  The suggested fabrics are linen, sailcloth, poplin, gingham, denim, duck and cotton.  I’ll be using a piece of indigo kettle cloth that I’ve had for quite a while.


Filed under Designers, Sewing