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A blog with a daily splash of vintage swimwear, vintage fashion, news, designer profiles and all things retro.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Claire McCardell Sportswear

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.

Just as innovative was her sense of play: By dressing down evening wear and gussying up day wear, by applying dress necklines to bathing suits and experimenting with drape effects by wrapping fabric panels, she created a new fashion language out of stuffy dictum's. The sleek lines and impeccable cuts spoke for themselves. What was once reviled as unfashionable became “modern”.

My holy grail is to one day own a Claire McCardell swimsuit. Can anyone help me with my quest? Here we share with you some images of her swimwear designs.

1946 ad for a Claire McCardell Empire Bathing Suit

1946 Claire McCardell Swimsuit

1948 Claire McCardell Swimsuit

1948 Claire McCardell Swimsuit


Heather Fish Pearl Swimwear said...
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Heather Fish Pearl Swimwear said...

About a year ago, Elle magazine did an editorial spread with Claire McCardell as the muse. Needless to say it was beautiful! Claire was way ahead of her time, as was swim designer Rose Marie Reid. I have high regard for both designers.
Heather Fish

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Aren't they wonderful? Le sigh.....

Glamoursurf said...

Hi Heather,

I'll have to go look for that issue. She really is an inspiration!

Frances Baker said...

These really are so stunning! I particullarly like the first one pictured.

watchful eagle said...

I'm not really a vintage clothing person, so I don't know much about these things, but just this morning I bought at a thrift store what I thought was an old 2 piece swimsuit which I thought would be a conversation piece. I did a google search and found your website. It has a Claire McCardell label in the top, but no labels in the pants. The pants have a side zipper, but no lining of any sort. Is this typical of her swimwear. The material is a sweater type knit in red and blue stripes?

Glamoursurf said...

Oh my goodness I would love to see it! If you go to my cloud tag I currently have 5 posts on Claire McCardell swimwear. It sounds like you have a piece that is definatley in her style. Let me know if you'd like to part with it, I'd love to have a piece of hers in my collection!

disa said...
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