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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I finished reading the original 1956 versionof 'What shall I wear' by Claire McCardell a while back and was fascinated by terms that Claire refers to as McCardellisms - A glossary of Terms that speak to me of Fashion and haven't very much to do with Webster.

NIGHTGOWN SILHOUETTE: Beloved high waistline, comfortable, easy. Demands small rib line, makes all legs look longer. An uncorseted look, a revolution against discomfort in clothes, recurring often as a protest when you can't breathe or move in tight lacings; and it covers a bad hip line with ease.

KITCHEN-DINNER DRESS: For the cook who is the hostess. She cooks in the kitchen; you eat the dinner there - but it's best cooking you have ever had, and probably the best dressed cook.

PANTS: Short, long, tight, full: shorts, ski pants, riding pants, jodhpurs, blue jeans.

T-SQUARE: Cut with sleeves like a T-Square, often a beach cover.

ROUGH-DRY: Cotton fabric that dries with a crinkle, no ironing.

HOOKS and EYES: Fastening for belts or fronts of dresses.

SNAPPERS: Jackets, blouses, pants snap on and off.

POCKET: A necessity in every dress, usually useful, but sometimes a line to mark a hip bone - also a place to put your hands.

STORM COAT: Rain, snow, sleet - warm inside, waterproof outside; strapped together, covers everything - suits in town, ski clothes in winter.

SWATCH: The clipping of fabric I carry around to inspire me to make a new dress for you.

COAT: Anything that goes over everything else. You can be "coated" in a stole.

POPOVER: Something that goes over anything. It is an apron one day, a bathrobe the next, a dinner dress, if necessary, with lots of beads.

MONASTIC: Gunny sack, stringbean, any dress without a waistline, to be belted or sashed as you like it.

DRESS-SHIRT: A dinner shirtwaist dress, easy, comfortable, sit on the floor type, rugged fabric that wears.

STRIP - TEASE or MATCHES: Clothes in pieces. You can wear all of them at one time or only two or three pieces- but they go together and are made of related fabrics.

FIGURE: it means , of course, the size you are. It is taken for granted that none of you are overweight; it is accepted as fact that none of you are perfectly proportioned. Not all average figure faults are found, however, in a single female. The ideal is seldom seen outside of the fashion drawings: legs inhumanly long, waist incredibly small, enough and not too much of everything else. But you can learn from this ideal. Highlight the spots that coincide - a really small waist for instance. Soft pedal the places that are out of line - no slim, straight skirts for wide hips is a case in point. When I say "Small" in this book I am thinking of 5 feet; medium is the range between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 5 inches; Tall is model height, over 5 feet 5 inches. Small Waist: at least 12 inches smaller than bust and hip measure.

MODEL: A girl you can't compete with unless Nature gave you a head start and you are willing to starve, exercise, go to bed early, learn a special walk. But you can learn self-discipline from her.

HEMLINES and WAISTLINES: Very definitely Datelines.

GLITTER: Usually to be avoided; never to be added to "shiny."

TYPE: What people tell you you are to flatter you; not always a compliment.

HAT: Anything on your head; it could even be a straw bracelet encircling your topknot.

McCARDELL HEEL: Illusion: elegance. No illusion: it's low-slung comfort.

SASH: Anything that ties around your waist, as opposed to belts, which have set fastenings.

FASHION: An indefinable something that every woman would like to know.

COLOR: Always different in different fabrics; sometimes dangerously so.

TREND: Don't start one if you can't be teased.

MANGY, MOTH-EATEN (as applied to fur): Not literally, impressionistic, unglazed, moleish.

OLD GOLD: A color. rather dirtyish; can be applied to brass just as well as tho the 14 -carat variety.

It's a wonderful book that is being re-released and can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.

1 comment:

Sandra @ Debutanteclothing.com said...

Ooh! I'm going to create a google alert for this book! I would love my own copy, and I love the the "strip-tease" definition. Very clever.