A 50-year-old fashion book that still feels radical today

In our world where there are no rules and everything is trending, you would think the last thing we need is a book telling women how to dress.

but!Claire McArdle What should I wear?Fashion what, where, when and how mucha witty and slender book, first published in 1957 and now reprinted, by Tory Burch, is the best and most thoughtful fashion book I’ve read this year.

A new edition of McArdle’s book, first published in 1957.

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

McCardell was an American designer at a time when most armchair historians tend to associate it with the haute couture glory of Paris. Her name may not be as well known as fellow Americans Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan. But before she died of colon cancer in 1957, the designs she created in the 1940s and 1950s were some of the most revolutionary in fashion. Spaghetti straps, ballet flats, pockets on dresses and zippers are McCardell innovations.

“It’s fascinating that 75 years after the fact, it Do It seems so tied to how women want to dress,” reflects Burch. “It’s really interesting, she empowers women to be uninhibited and free, [but also] Think of fashion as more of a person. This is something I admire a lot. ”

McCardell’s looks are pleasing but never ridiculous. She is confident and straightforward.

In her book, McArdle is part fashion philosopher, part industry expert, and part fashion guru. Coincidentally, her words were read as a kind of sustainable fashion bible (though manufacturing changes and innovations in synthetic materials meant that the “cheap” dresses of her era were more likely to last longer than today’s). Most delightful—and frankly, most forcefully—she urges women not to take the anti-fashion or fashion skeptical stance, a pose that’s in vogue these days, and encourages women to move away from appreciating fashion’s whims, trends, and beauty.

“I would urge you to be brave,” she wrote after a thought-provoking page exploring the frivolity of fashion. “Look at new fashions and see if they suit you. Test their fit, feel, look – how they should be worn – how you will wear them. You will find that you have many options… Explore Fashion , if you can’t lead the way in temperament, say no.”

McArdle’s work, like her wit, has a truly unique pragmatism and charm. “She always thinks of women,” Birch said. “She was an amazing feminist before feminism really became mainstream.” She has a way of using geometric lines Plaid creates a charming vibrancy; Her sense of colour is understated but strong and statement. Her shape is happy but never ridiculous. She’s confident straight to the point.

Claire McArdle Books

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Claire McArdle Books

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

Birch is a McCadley pie through and through. After first seeing the designer’s work while studying art history at the University of Pennsylvania, she found herself thinking of her again when her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, took over as CEO in 2019. “I gave up that title and role and was able to really have time to think about the design,” she explained. “I wanted to try and make it more personal to me.”

McArdle was one of the first characters that came to mind. For her spring 2022 collection, she designed several plaid and tartan dresses in tribute to McCardell, fitted at the waist and pleated skirts in airy silk.It’s one of the few pieces I’ve tried on in the last few years that fit like a glove, don’t require a trip to the tailor, and actually make me look better, not just cooler – just Like I said to Burch, when I put it on, it feels like enhance I. (she continues to design for fall.)

The reason for this is the modernity inherent in McArdle itself. Her designs are feminine and occasionally romantic, but mostly they are powerful and versatile. High fashion designers now rarely think about how fabrics and silhouettes complement or fit into women’s lives, focusing instead on commerciality or wild creativity. “She didn’t want to do couture in Paris,” Burch said. “In fact, they’re looking at her. She goes against every stereotype, every norm, and borrows from the movement. And menswear — I’ve always been fascinated by that feminine masculine idea of ​​creating yourself what style means.”

Birch also appreciates McArdle’s emphasis on work and Rather than revolving around (or even ignoring) the female body: “Her design,” she explains, “is celebrating the female body. She says some things work for you and some things don’t.”

Claire McArdle Books

Courtesy of Tory Burch.

1946, Bermuda Location: Bermuda: swimsuit model by genevieve naylorcorbis via getty images

Genevieve Naylor

Perhaps McArdle’s most relevant legacy is that she wrote a book. McCardell believes that fashion is not for the few, whether they are very passionate or very wealthy or both. As Birch puts it, the purpose of the book, as well as McArdle’s clothing, is also to help all women “feel more confident. And I think when the clothes get too tricky or too precious – which I also love, by the way. , I’m not giving up – it’s incomprehensible to some women. For me, when someone wears our collection, they feel more confident and feel like they’re a better version of themselves, it’s come to me It couldn’t be better.”

Women today are busy, “like they were back in the forties and fifties, in a different way,” she continued. “But they don’t want to just focus on their looks all the time. They want to go out, they want to feel really stylish and put together. It’s not natural [gift] For some people. I think being able to address these issues and give people a collection that they can make and mix and match is something I’ve always been interested in. “

Even today, the idea of ​​clothing as a woman’s service is novel because people often feel like your only two options are Shein stan or fashion victim. As Birch puts it, “It’s easy to forget how radical Claire was.”

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