Sunday, June 24, 2012

The American Look

Who invented the casual elegance of leotard dressing and took the ballet slipper into the street?  Not Donna Karan, but Claire McCardell, whose use of simple fabrics and clean lines created what has been called The American Look: a way of dressing characterized by comfort, freedom of movement, and high style.

Using denim, gingham, and new fabrics like wool jersey, McCardell created easy-fitting, bias-cut dresses with an eye for detail: patch pockets, visible hooks, double stitching and deep armholes.

  Designer Claire McCardell

Her popover, a wrap-around denim dress, was designed as something women could wear to do housework and still look smart.  A bargain at the 1940 price of $6.95, 75,000 popovers were turned over in the first year of sales alone.

Popover dress, 1942

Evening gown, 1939

Swimsuits, 1946


On May 2, 1955, McCardell found Time on her side as she was pictured on the cover of the prestigious magazine, which celebrated her as the innovator of casual, American separates.


Sundress, 1956

 McCardell was the first fashion designer to be so honored.  Only two others, Dior and Gernreich, have been pictured since.

Source: Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger


  1. I love the 1940s and 1950s dresses! I want to get my own skirt one day for a Halloween costume =)

    1. Nat - Same here. It's one of my favorite eras. I adore the dresses and hairstyles.

  2. Loved to read your post! /fashiondesignstudent