The 50-year-old fashion writer who still feels radical today

In our rule-free, anything-to-trend world, you might think the last thing we need is a book that tells women how to dress.

And yet! Claire McCardell So what do I wear? What, where, when and how much fashionFirst released in 1957 and now reprinted with a foreword by Tory Burch, Clever and Skinny is the best and most fashionable book I’ve read this year.

Claire McCardell

The new edition of McArdle’s book, first published in 1957.

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

McCardell was an American designer during an era most armchair historians tend to associate with the glories of haute couture in Paris. And her name may not be as well known as her fellow Americans Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan. But the designs she created in the 1940s and 1950s, before her death of colon cancer in 1957, were some of the most revolutionary in fashion. Spaghetti straps, ballet flats, pockets and zippers on dresses were McArdle’s innovations.

“The cool thing is, 75 years after this happened, it has become this way Do It seems relevant to the way women want to dress,” Porsche reflects. “It’s really exciting, the way it has given women the ability to be unattached and free, [but also] To look at fashion as an individual. That was something I really liked.”

McCardell’s shapes were cheerful but never silly. She had the confidence to be honest.

In her book McCardell is part fashion philosopher, part industry hand, and part fashion expert. Coincidentally, her words are read as a kind of sustainable fashion bible (though changes in manufacturing and innovations in synthetics mean that the “cheap” dress of its era is more likely to survive than the “cheap” dress of today). Happier — frankly, stronger — urges women not to adopt an anti-fashion or fashion skeptical stance, the common position today that encourages women to absolve themselves entirely from appreciating the whims, trends, and beauty of fashion.

“I’ll urge you to be brave,” she wrote, after a few factual pages exploring the shivers of fashion. “Look at the new fashions and see if they could be yours. Test how they fit, feel and look – how you’re supposed to wear – how you’re going to wear them. You’ll find that you have a huge choice…. Explore fashion and say no if you’re moodily unable to start a trend” .

McCardell’s work, like her wisdom, had a truly unique blend of pragmatism and magic. “I’ve always thought of women,” Burch says. “She was a great feminist before feminism really became mainstream.” She had a way of using geometric lines and Plaids to create dynamic temptation; Her sense of color was understated but strong and frank. Her looks were cheerful but never silly. She had the confidence to be frank.

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Porsche is McArdlite through and through. After seeing the designer’s work for the first time in her studies of art history at the University of Pennsylvania, she found herself thinking about her again when her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel took over as CEO in 2019. “I gave up that title and role, and I actually managed to get some time to think. in design,” she explains. “I wanted to try to make it more special for me.”

McCardell was one of the first figures that came to mind. For her Spring 2022 collection, she created a handful of gingham and plaid dresses in honor of McCardle, with a fitted waist and pleated skirt in soft silk. It’s one of the few dresses I’ve tried in the past several years that fits me like a glove, requires no trips to the tailor, and actually makes me look better rather than just cooler – as I put it on for a Porsche, when I wear it, I feel as though it boost I. (Design continued for the fall season.)

The reason for this is McCardell’s inherent modernity. Her designs were feminine and romantic at times, but mostly they were strong and versatile. Couture designers now rarely think about how fabrics and silhouettes can complement or match a woman’s life, and instead focus on business or unbridled creativity. “She wasn’t looking for haute couture in Paris,” says Porsche. “In fact, they were looking at it. And it went against every stereotype, every rule, and borrowed from sports. And also from menswear – I’ve always been fascinated by this feminine and masculine idea of ​​what it means to create your own style.”

Porsche, too, admires McCardell’s focus on work with Rather than being about (or even oblivious to) a woman’s body: “Her designs,” she explains, “was celebrating the woman’s body. She was saying that some things work for you and some don’t.”

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Woman designing a swimsuit by Claire McCardle Bermuda, 1946, Location Bermuda, Photo by Genevieve NaylorCorpis via Getty Images

Genevieve Naylor

Perhaps McArdle’s most relevant legacy is the fact that she’s ever written a book. McArdle believed that fashion was not a thing for the few, whether they were too zealous, too wealthy, or both. The purpose of the book and McCardell’s clothing was also, in Porsche’s words, to help all women feel more confident. And I think when clothes get too hard or too precious – which I also love by the way, I don’t throw it away – it just isn’t understandable for some women. There is nothing better for me to hear that when someone wears our set, they feel more confident and feel like a better version of themselves.”

“Women today are busy,” she continues, “like they were in their forties and fifties, in a different way.” “But they don’t want to just focus on the way they look all the time. They want to go out and they want to feel really stylish and put together. It’s not normal. [gift] for some people. I think being able to solve these problems and offer people a group where they can make it their own and mix and match is something that I’ve always been interested in.”

The idea of ​​dressing as a service for women seems new even today, when you often feel like your only option is Shein stan or a victim of fashion. As Birch said, “It’s easy to forget how radical Claire is.”

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