Claire McCardell: the American who invented sportswear, making women more free!

Creation of Claire McCardell

“Independent woman” by Beatrice Brandini

If we love the American look, that is clothing that mixes freedom, youth and comfort, we owe it above all to her, Claire McCardell, who from the 1930s created a sporty line made of clothes that made women elegant but comfortable.

Advertising Claire McCardell

A lover of fashion from a very young age, McCardell attended Parsons in New York, here she completed her studies and perfected what she had just learned in Paris. But while the whole world went crazy for French haute couture, Claire was quite indifferent to it, admired but not eager to replicate that taste at home (except for Vionnet’s clothes which she purchased and dissected). In fact, when she returned to America, she created her own innovative fashion line, more suited to a dynamic and independent woman than to a young bourgeois who takes tea with her friends.

Claire McCardell


Swimsuit by Claire McCardell

Her most famous invention was the “Monastic Dress”, a draped dress cut on the bias, characterized by a long skirt, closed at the waist by a sash or a belt, which adapted to the needs of the wearer (the belt could be placed in different positions), guaranteeing comfort and freedom.

Playsuit, Claire McCardell

Monastic Dress, Claire McCardell

Later it was the turn of the “Pop – over Dress” a versatile dress that could be worn at home (provocatively it was equipped with a coordinated pocket / pot holder) as at a cocktail party. McCardell’s vision was that a woman could be chic wearing the same dress at home (in the process of cooking) like going to a party.

Swimsuit by Claire McCardell

Playsuit by Claire McCardell

She reinvented the travel wardrobe by avoiding women dragging trunks to go on vacation; in fact she designed dresses in six separate pieces, for the boutiques it was a revolution since there was no way to propose single items to combine together, creating different looks.

Creation of Claire McCardell

Pop Over Dress

Claire McCardell designed for women, freeing them from stereotypes (you can be sexy even with an apron dress), emancipated them, saved them from unreal and useless proportions. She was a woman and knew her / our needs.

Claire McCardeell

Claire McCardell on the cover of Time in 1955

I have always found this lady’s creations very elegant, her name is not as popular as that of Chanel or Vionnet, but her figure was just as revolutionary. It would be important to give it more prominence as it has done so much for fashion, completely innovating it. If we scroll through the images, in fact, we can only be struck by the freshness and modernity of these dresses.

Vogue, dress by Claire McCardell

Harper’s Bazaar 1950

Her career is expressed in an unfortunately short period of time, in the thirties she enters the Townely Frocks maison, where he will take the place of the designer Robert Turk, who died prematurely. The rise of this woman within the company will be increasingly important, so much so that, in 1952, she will also become its business partner. But unfortunately, shortly thereafter, they will diagnose her with a serious illness. Claire McCardell died in 1958, aged only 52, leaving the world with an incredible creative legacy. Until the very last she designed and thought about her collections. After her death the family decided to close the brand because, as her brother explained well, “Claire’s ideas have always been hers alone” …


“Beach”, McCardell inspiration by Beatrice Brandini

In 1945 McCardell won the award for best sportswear designer and in ’48 that of Neiman-Marcus. In 1950, President Truman bestowed on the designer the Woman of the Year award from the Women’s Press Club. In 1957 she worked on the creation of a magazine, together with the editorial board of Time, which would become Sports Illustrated.

“House”, McCardell inspiration by Beatrice Brandini

Her clothes are exhibited at the MoMA in New York and in other costume museums. Many are the designers who were inspired by her, like Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Isaac Mizrahi.


“Cocktail”, McCardell inspiration by Beatrice Brandini

Adorable Mrs. McCardell, a concrete and brilliant woman, humble and independent, did not boast of her ideas, on the contrary, in the book “What shall I wear?” (published in 1955) declared: “My ideas were born from evidence, many times I said to myself: why didn’t I think about it before?”.

Good life everyone



4 commenti su “Claire McCardell: the American who invented sportswear, making women more free!

  1. I did not know this designer, she was very good and very modern. thank you for always telling us good stories

  2. Fashion is a wonderful thing, unfortunately sometimes it forgets what made it great, like this incredible creative entrepreneur. luckily there are people like you who also tell lesser known stories.

  3. Great post and great sketches , you are very professional e a very talent person. Thanks for share with us!

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