We're taking a moment to give a nod to one of the many True Fashionista designers of a bygone generation that have influenced today's fashion stars. The name Claire McCardell may not immediately be as legendary as long-established brands like DiorHermès, or Louis Vuitton. Still, her designs significantly impacted American fashion in the 20th century. Her influence remains among the array of luxury designers found in the vast collection at True Fashionistas, Florida's largest designer resale and consignment store. 

If you've ever enjoyed a casual day, like, say, practically every day over the last couple of years, you can thank Claire McCardell for that. When asked to describe her work in five sentences, fashion historian Julie Eilber told Medium.com, "Claire McCardell… is the mother of modern casual and activewear, so if you're a woman who's donned ballet flats, hoodies, capri yoga pants, or wrap dresses recently — or packed a suitcase full of knitwear for travel — you're living her legacy."  


Claire McCardell was one of the most influential women's sportswear designers of the twentieth century. Best known for creating the True Fashionista "American look," her designs were inspired by the active lifestyle of American women circa the 1930s and 40s. Known for casual sportswear, shirtwaist dresses, wool jersey sheaths, and practical leisure clothing and swimwear, which she often referred to as "playclothes," McCardell designed for working women who wanted stylish, well-made clothing in washable fabrics that could be easily cleaned. Her "Popover" dress was the precursor to Diane von Fürstenberg's wrap dress designs thirty years later. Shop the vast selection of wrap dresses at the best designer consignment store, True Fashionistas. 


Born in Frederick, Maryland, in 1905, McCardell moved to New York City in 1925 to attend Parsons School of Design, earning a degree in fashion design in 1928. She spent a year studying abroad in Paris during her studies, joining the flapper movement. Hired at Townley Frocks in 1930, Claire quickly rose to chief designer, receiving the Coty Award from the American Fashion Critics Association in 1944, and became a company partner in 1952. She married architect Irving Harris in 1943 and raised two stepchildren. Besides a brief stint at Hattie Carnegie, McCardell remained with Townley for the rest of her remarkable career, rising to partner before sadly passing away from cancer on March 22nd, 1958, at age 52.  


Ms. McCardell helped push American women's True Fashionista clothing toward its distinctive style in the 1930s and forties. Before then, affluent American women would purchase apparel made by Parisian couture houses or American-made items that were copies of the French designs. McCardell felt that her customers led a different lifestyle than that of European women; they were more physically active and had far less time to care and maintain impractical fabrics.  

She was spot on. By the 1940s, when wartime rationing brought an enforced break with French fashion, her designs made her a household name for their True Fashionista practical yet stylish feel, helping to define what came to be called the "American look."  

Eilber says, "Even though McCardell was one of the first American designers to license her name on sunglasses, gloves, jewelry, and baby shoes, her untimely death in the fifties was right before fashion companies had figured out how to keep a designer's name working as a 'brand' even after their death." 

McCardell described her style as embodying America, "It looks and feels like America. It's freedom; it's democracy, it's casualness, it's good health. Clothes can say all that." Insisting that the heavily decorated, padded, and corseted French fashions of the era often sacrificed comfort to style, McCardell designed clean-lined, comfortable clothes that proved such a sacrifice was not only unacceptable; it was also unnecessary. True Fashionistas, Naples' best consignment store, carries a constantly updated look both American and European.  


Throughout her storied career, a hallmark of McCardell's designs was her introduction of new or unusual fabrics. World War II shortages ushered in the need for creativity, and she was in the perfect place to provide it. Inspired by the limited materials and price-conscious consumers, McCardell created inexpensive women's clothing focused on simplicity and versatility. When fuel rationing resulted in chilly college dormitories, McCardell created a wool leotard to work under sweaters and skirts during the winter and a chic wartime coat manufactured within government rationing restrictions and rayon dresses with McCardell's signature neck bows. 

McCardell created her 1942 True Fashionista denim popover wrap dress for socialite women whose domestic help had moved onto better-paying wartime factory work. Her dresses sold for only $6.95 and even included hidden side seam pockets and an attached oven mitt. (!) 


McCardell also fashioned her line of True Fashionista ballet flats, not as part of the dance world, but the uber-comfy, True Fashionista version to be worn with casual street-style outfits. McCardell was one of the earliest designers to see the potential of the ballet slipper as regular womenswear. She collaborated with longtime ballet shoe manufacturer Capezio to create a slipper. Out of all of her stellar True Fashionista creations, it was a pair of her ballet flats that joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 1944 Are Clothes Modern? exhibition. 


American Style, fashion consultant, and author Tim Gunn referred to three seminal moments in 20th-century fashion in the CNN miniseries. A woman created each one of them. Those referenced were Coco ChanelDonna Karan, and Claire McCardell. Chanel herself once said that she created clothing she could be comfortable wearing, and McCardell's designs were very much along those lines. Consider Ms. Von Fürstenberg's iconic update to McCardell's popover dress.  

Experience the influence of Claire McCardell on modern fashion design at True Fashionistas consignment store, Naples. Discover luxury clothing, accessories, and home accents for a fraction of the original price, authenticity guaranteed. Shop 24/7 online or in-store located in beautiful Naples, Florida.  



TAGS: Claire McCardell, Diane von Furstenberg, Coco Chanel, Donna Karan, popover dress, wool leotard, Parsons School of Design, CNN, Tim Gunn, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Capezio, sportswear design, American look, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermes