1953 Claire McCardell Swimsuit
Claire McCardell went to school at Paris Parsons and graduated in 1928. While McCardell’s 1930s innovations such as mix-and-match separates were brilliant, America’s isolation from Paris couturiers, as well as the shortage of materials available during World War II, ultimately gave spark to her real ingenuity and vision.
Cutting fashionable dresses and pantsuits out of government surpluses of cotton weather balloons, McCardell’s fashions were not just frugal, they created a new ease in women’s clothing that demanded its own category: sportswear. Not to be confused with today’s Lycra-infused active wear, ladies sportswear of the 1940s took its name from the simple fact it let women move, hands free, through their daily lives.
Leaving behind the restriction of the corsets, girdles, and fussy fabrics, McCardell’s cotton and denim dresses hung from the shoulders, flattering a variety of different body shapes. By applying her sportswear ideal to every possible application—from day wear to evening wear, from swimwear to accessories—McCardell’s disregard for convention resulted in fresh, versatile designs with real staying power.