A 50-year-old fashion book that still feels radical today


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In a law-free, anything-is-trend world, the last thing we need is a book telling women how to dress.

And yet! Claire McCardell what should i wear Fashion what, where, when and how muchFirst published in 1957 and now published with an introduction by Tory Burch, The Witch and the Slender is one of the best and most thoughtful fashion books I’ve read this year.

Claire McCardell

A new edition of McCartel’s book, first published in 1957.

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Most armchair historians associate it with Parisian splendor when McCardell was an American designer. And her name may not be as familiar as the Americans Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan. But in the year Her designs in the 1940s and 50s, before her death from colon cancer in 1957, are some of the most revolutionary in fashion. Spaghetti straps, ballet flats, and pockets and zippers on dresses were all McCartel inventions.

“What’s amazing is that it’s 75 years later. will do “Be very appropriate for the way women want to dress,” explains Burch. “The way she gave women the freedom to be unemployable and independent is very interesting. [but also] To look at fashion more as an individual. It was something I really appreciated,” he said.

McCarthy’s forms were happy but never funny. She had the confidence to be straightforward.

In her book, McCardell is a fashion philosopher, part industry hand and part style guru. Incidentally, her words read like a timeless fashion bible (despite changes in manufacturing and synthetic innovations, the “cheap” dress of her day is more liable to last than the “cheap” one of today). In a very interesting way—clearly, powerfully—she urges women not to adopt an anti-fashion or fashion-skeptic stance, a pose that encourages women to be completely self-aware of the demands, trends, and beauty of fashion today.

“I beg you to be clever,” she writes after a few pages exploring fashion’s sophistication. “Look at new fashions and see if they can be yours. See what they fit, how they feel—how they’re supposed to wear—how they wear. You’ll find you have a great choice…. If you can’t start with a raging trend, explore fashion and say no.”

McCartel’s work, like her art, had a truly singular blend of pragmatism and glamor. “She always thought about women,” Burch said. “She was an amazing woman before feminism was really mainstream.” She had a way of using geometric lines and Plaids to create flat flexibility; Her sense of color was low but strong, expressive. Her forms were happy but never funny. She had the confidence to be direct.

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Burch is a McCardelite through and through. Her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, married her in 1988 after she first discovered the designer’s work while studying art history at the University of Pennsylvania. When he took over as CEO in 2019, he found himself rethinking her. And he was able to find some time to think about design,” she explains. “I wanted to try to make it a little personal for me.”

McCardell was one of the first people who came to mind. For her Spring 2022 collection, she created a handful of gingham and pleat dresses, fitted waists and ruffled skirts in breezy silks, all made in honor of McCardell. It’s one of the few dresses I’ve tried on over the years that fits me like a glove, doesn’t require a trip to the tailor, and actually makes me look better than cold—I put it on the bench, put it on when I go, that’s how it feels. It increases I. (She continued the design for the fall season.)

The reason for this is McCartel’s own inherent modernity. Her designs were feminine and occasionally romantic, but mostly strong and versatile. High fashion designers are now very rarely how fabric and image fit into the woman’s life, instead they focus on business or wild creativity. “She wasn’t looking to have fun in Paris,” Burch said. “In fact, they were looking at her. And she was defying every stereotype, every rule, and borrowing from sports. I’ve also always been fascinated by the idea of ​​femininity and masculinity in menswear – what it means to create your own style.

Burch also appreciates McCarthy’s attention to detail with Not around the female body (not even oblivious): “Her ideas,” she explains, “respect the female body.” You were saying that some things work for you and some things don’t.

Claire McCardell book

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

A woman modeling a swimsuit designed by Claire McCardell Bermuda, 1946 Bermuda photo by Genevieve Naylorcorbis via Getty Images

Genevieve Naylor

Perhaps McCardell’s most relevant legacy is that she never wrote a book. McArdle believed that few were too sensitive or too rich or both to be fashionable. The purpose of the book and McCartel’s clothes, Burch said, is to help all women “feel more confident. And I think when clothes are too expensive or too expensive—which I love, by the way, I don’t take away—it’s incomprehensible to some women. When someone wears our collection, they feel more confident.” There is nothing better than hearing that they feel confident and a better version of themselves.

Women today are busy, “just like they were in the forties and fifties, just in a different way,” she continues. But they don’t always want to focus only on their looks. They want to go out and feel really good and put together. That is not natural. [gift] For some people. I think solving those problems and providing a collection for people to put together and mix and match is something I’ve always wanted to do.

The idea that clothing was meant to serve women feels novel even today, when you often feel like your two options are Shein Stan or fashion victim. As Burch puts it, “It’s easy to forget how radical Claire was.”


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