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Guide to the Claire McCardell fashion sketches, 1931-1958

Collection Overview

Repository

Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier

KA.0082

Creator

McCardell, Claire, 1905-1958

Creator - Designer

Orrick, Mildred, 1906-1994

Creator - Designer

Scaasi, Arnold

Creator

Townley Frocks (Firm).

Title

Claire McCardell fashion sketches, 1931-1958

Extent

51.2 linear ft: 128 binders, 1 folder

Summary

Claire McCardell (1905-1958) graduated from the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (later, Parsons School of Design) in 1928 and went on to become a pivotal figure in the creation of American ready-to-wear clothing. McCardell received the Coty American Fashion Critics Award in 1944, and in the same year returned to Parsons as a critic and instructor, a position she held for the rest of her life. The Kellen Design Archives has approximately 9,000 of McCardell's working sketches, covering the years 1931-1958; the bulk were produced for Townley Frocks. The collection also includes sketches by Mildred Orrick and Scaasi (Arnold Isaacs) for Townley Frocks.

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Claire McCardell fashion sketches, KA.0082, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical note

Claire McCardell was born in Frederick, Maryland in 1905 and attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (today, Parsons The New School for Design) from 1925 to 1928. With a certificate in Costume Design, McCardell joined the team of New York fashion designer Robert Turk. After Turk met a sudden death, McCardell became head designer for Townley Frocks. Closed for business in 1938 or 1939, Townley Frocks would re-open its doors in 1940 and offer McCardell her own label, “Claire McCardell Clothes by Townley.” Adolph Klein, the owner of Townley Frocks, made her a partner of the firm in 1952.

McCardell returned to Parsons in 1944 as a critic and lecturer. That same year, she was honored with the first of her two Winnies, the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards. In 1945, Lord & Taylor picked up McCardell's collection for Townley, and in 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman presented McCardell with the Women’s National Press Club Award. McCardell exhibited her work at the Frank Perls Gallery of Beverly Hills in 1953, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in May 1955.

Claire McCardell died from cancer at the age of 52 in 1958. Her friend and former Parsons classmate Mildred Orrick (1906-1994) stepped in to finish McCardell's line at Townley Frocks. The firm closed in 1976.

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Scope and Contents of Collection

The bulk of the collection consists of approximately 9,000 fashion sketches produced by Claire McCardell for Townley Frocks between 1931 and just before her death in 1958. All sketches are rendered in pencil, with 163 accompanied by fabric swatches. In addition to the Townley sketches, the collection includes 510 sketches McCardell created for Hattie Carnegie and 163 sketches she created for Win-Sum between 1939 and 1940, during the period when Townley had temporarily ceased production.

Fellow Townley designers Arnold Isaacs (1930-), who in the early 1950s had begun using the name "Scaasi," and Mildred Orrick are also represented in the collection. The 18 Scassi sketches were produced for Townley's "Urban" label during McCardell's final season and Orrick contributed approximately 250 sketches for McCardell's line during McCardell's illness and immediately following her death.

The collection includes one folder of ephemera, mostly on Townley stationery and order forms, featuring jottings regarding materials and garment numbers. There is also a sketch of what appears to be a garment manufacturing company, with areas labeled "shipping" and "piece goods," and three items of correspondence between Lake Dress Manufacturing Company of New York and W. I. Young of Norfolk, Virginia, dated 1932.

The collection includes no personal materials, nor does it include professional correspondence apart from the Lake-Young items in the Ephemera series.

It is important to note that the years used to organize the collection are approximations based on inscriptions found on numerous sketches.

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Arrangement note

Organized in 2 series. Arrangement is chronological.

  1. Ephemera, 1932, undated
  2. Sketches, 1931-1958

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - October 7, 2010

66 5th Ave./
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011
212.229.5942
archivist@newschool.edu

Preferred Citation note

[Identification of item], [date (if known)], Claire McCardell fashion sketches, KA.0082, box __, folder __, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Custodial History note

Internally transferred to Kellen Design Archives from Gimbel Library, circa 1996.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Sketches donated to Parsons School of Design by Adolph Klein, president of Townley Frocks, 1967.

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Related Materials

Biographical materials about Claire McCardell as well as photographs of the designer visiting and lecturing at Parsons will be found in the New School Archives' Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records (PC.03.02.01). The New School Archives also holds the papers of McCardell's classmate, friend, and Townley collaborator, Mildred Orrick in Mildred Orrick fashion and costume sketches (KA.0067) and two garments designed by Claire McCardell.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Genre(s)

  • Sketches.

Occupation(s)

  • Fashion designers.

Personal Name(s)

  • Carnegie, Hattie

Subject(s)

  • Clothing trade -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Fashion design.
  • Women's clothing industry.
  • Women's clothing -- United States -- 20th century.

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Other Finding Aids note

For selected item-level description and images from the Claire McCardell fashion sketches, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA0082.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Series I. Ephemera 1932, undated 

k_3 11

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Series II. Sketches 1931-1958 

Binder Box
Townley Frocks: 1931 
1-3 1
4 2
Townley Frocks: 1932 
10-11 4
5-6 2
7-9 3
Townley Frocks: 1933 
12 4
13-15 5
16 6
Townley Frocks: 1934 
17-18 6
19-21 7
Townley Frocks: 1935 
22-24 8
25-27 9
28 10
Townley Frocks: 1936 
29-30 10
31-33 11
34 12
Townley Frocks: 1937 

Sketches labeled 853-855, 858-859, 861, 863, 865-866, 868-870 and 875 are not by McCardell. Unknown hand.

35-36 12
37-39 13
40-42 14
Townley Frocks: 1938 
43-45 15
46-48 16
49 17
Townley Frocks: 1939 

Sketches labeled 156-157 are not by McCardell and are in color. Unknown hand.

50-51 17
Hattie Carnegie: 1939 

Includes binders formerly titled "Hattie Carnegie: Spring 1939", "Hattie Carnegie: Fall 1939", and "Hattie Carnegie: Palm Beach 1939".

52-54 18
Hattie Carnegie: 1940 

Includes binders formerly titled "Hattie Carnegie: Paris 1940" (Parts 1, 2, and 3).

55-57 19
Win Sum: 1940 

Includes binders formerly titled "Win Sum: Fall 1940" and "Win Sum: Palm Beach 1940".

58-59 20
Townley Frocks: 1941 
60 20
61-63 21
64-65 22
Townley Frocks: 1942 
66 22
67-68 23
Townley Frocks: 1943 
69 23
70-72 24
73 25
Townley Frocks: 1944 
74-75 25
76-77 26
Townley Frocks: 1945 

Includes binders formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Cotton/Resort 1945", "Townley Frocks: Resort 1945", and "Townley Frocks: Fall 1945".

78-80 27
Townley Frocks: 1946 
81-83 28
Townley Frocks: 1947 

Includes a binder formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Junior Editions/Holiday Line 1947", as well as "Townley Frocks: Fall 1947", "Townley Frocks: Resort 1948", and "Townley Frocks: Summer 1948".

84-86 29
87 30
Townley Frocks: 1948 
88-89 30
90 31
Townley Frocks: 1949 

Includes binders formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Junior Editions 1948-1949" and "Townley Frocks: Fall 1949".

91-92 31
Townley Frocks: 1950 

Includes binders formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Resort 1949", "Townley Frocks: Fall 1950", "Townley Frocks: Junior Editions 1950", and "Townley Frocks: Resort 1950".

93-95 32
96-97 33
Townley Frocks: 1951 

Includes binders formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Stay-Home/Early Cotton 1951", "Townley Frocks: Resort 1950", and "Townley Frocks: Fall 1951".

98 33
99-100 34
Townley Frocks: 1952 
Pants  
101 34
102-104 35
Townley Frocks: 1953 
105-107 36
Townley Frocks: 1954 
108-109 37
Townley Frocks: 1955 
110 37
111-113 38
114-115 39
Townley Frocks: 1956 

Scope and Content of Collection

Includes binders formerly titled "Townley Frocks: Baby McCardell Fall/Holiday 1956", "Townley Frocks: Fall 1956", and "Townley Frocks: Resort 1956".

116 39
117-119 40
120 41
Townley Frocks: 1957 
121-122 41
123-124 42
Townley Frocks: 1958 

Sketches from binder 127 labeled 801, 803, 805, 807, 809, 811, 813, 815, 817, 819, 821, 823, 825, 827, 831, 833, 835 and 837 are all by Arnold Scaasi. The rest of the sketches in binders 126-128 are by Mildred Orrick.

125 42
126-128 43

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 10/25/2016

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