woman of style

My poor camera wound up in the hospital this week, the victim of too many fun-filled days of sea and sand. I feel lost without her.

I’ve spent the week starting a knitting project three times. Yes, three. It begins with back and forth knitting, which is then joined in the round, and I find it so hard to get my gauge to stay the same between straight and circular. Arggghh. It’s a constant problem. It doesn’t matter how many times I swatch, my gauge changes like the weather here in NZ. I’m now on my third and hopefully, lucky, attempt.

In the meantime our local deli, The Little Grocer, has a swap going on. You give them a book wrapped in newsprint or brown paper and trade it for someone else’s. It’s a lucky dip and there’s no peeking. I want to participate, but when I look at my book shelf it’s hard to decide which one I’m prepared to say goodbye to.

If nothing else, the search has reminded me of my favourites. There are some books that are so precious that, like the mother of a sleeping baby, I obsessively check on them at regular intervals to make sure they’re still safe and sound and haven’t wandered off somewhere.

Here’s one of those:

Last June when I visited the Met,  as luck would have it, one of the exhibits was The American Woman: Fashioning A National Identity, which showed the gradual emancipation of 20th century woman through her clothes.

The show was full of spectacular outfits, but many were by French designers, and I came home inspired but disappointed because there was no sign of Claire McCardell anywhere.  She’s known as the creator of the “American look”, after all. From the 1930’s to the 1950’s she designed stylish, functional, casual clothing which could be mass-produced, was affordable and within the reach of all women. To my eye many of her outfits were revolutionary for the time and even 50 years on still retain an edge, much like Eames furniture and other mid-century classics. How could they not include her?

Not to worry. At least I have my book: Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Wolf.

Here she is on a trans Atlantic crossing to visit Paris during the 1930’s. Love her menswear look and the braids.

this is one of my favourite dresses. Simple, casual elegance. it epitomizes her look.

many of her dresses remind me of the iconic Ruth Orkin photo “An American Girl in Italy”.

a woman after my own heart. she loved aprons.

a knit swim suit with her signature hooks and eyes

wool jersey at its finest

one of these days I’ll take a couple of months and knit a dress like this. genius.

red patch pockets, perilously close to curtain status, but witty, fun, and courageous.

hooded tops. she incorporated them into everything from beach coverups to wedding gowns. now I see where Little Edie got her ideas

McCardell invented the pop-over during WW2 for women who wanted to look and feel attractive even as they were doing household chores. she patented it and a version of it appeared in every collection.

love the geometry of this day dress

This is just a taste. It’s fascinating look at the period and how the upheaval of the times brought about changes in what women wore.

here’s Claire in a dress made entirely of triangles, proving that no one need be afraid of a well-placed bow.

5 Responses to “woman of style”

  1. Theresa Says:

    I love her! The combination of function and glamour is so modern and appealing.

  2. lisa miller Says:

    So elegant, clean and uncluttered! strong statement beautiful line always
    maintaining feminiity. Would so wear this today….

  3. Karen B Says:

    I hope you are safe! Prayers coming your way from SoCal!

  4. Karen B Says:

    I now realize you’re not around Christchurch. I still hope you and your loved ones are safe.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    Hearing about the earthquake yesterday morning I rushed to check google maps and make sure you’re okay. Glad to see you’re not close to Christchurch. Hope you’ve managed to contact any friends and family members you have there. Hope all is well with you.

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