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Guide to the Claire McCardell fashion sketches, 1931-1958

Collection Overview

Repository
Kellen Design Archives
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 The New School for 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.

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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 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 her illness and immediately following her death.

The collection includes one folder of ephemera, much on Townley stationery. These slips of paper and order forms primarily feature jottings regarding materials and garment numbers. There is also a sketch of what appears to a garment manufacturing concern, 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.

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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

Use Restrictions

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

Custodial History note

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

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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 Kellen Design Archives' Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records (PIC.03.002.1). The Kellen Design Archives also holds the papers of McCardell's classmate, friend, and Townley collaborator, Mildred Orrick (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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Collection Inventory

Title Box Folder
Series I. Ephemera 1932, undated  k_3 11

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Series II. Sketches 1931-1958 
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Summer/Fall 1931  1 1
Townley Frocks: Fall 1931  2-3 1
Townley Frocks: 1932  4-5 2
Townley Frocks: Summer/Fall 1932, 1 of 2  6 2
Townley Frocks: Summer/Fall 1932, 2 of 2  7 3
Townley Frocks: Fall 1932  8-9 3
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1932  10-11 4
Townley Frocks: Fall 1933, 1 of 3  12 4
Townley Frocks: Fall 1933, 2-3 of 3  13-14 5
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1933  15 5
Townley Frocks: 1933  16 6
Townley Frocks: 1934  17 6
Townley Frocks: Spring 1934  18 6
Townley Frocks: 1934, 1 of 2  19 7
Townley Frocks: Fall 1934  20 7
Townley Frocks: 1934, 2 of 2  21 7
Townley Frocks: 1935  22-24 8
Townley Frocks: Fall 1935  25-26 9
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1935, 1 of 2  27 9
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1935, 2 of 2  28 10
Townley Frocks: 1936, 1-2 of 5  29-30 10
Townley Frocks: 1936, 3 of 5  31 11
Townley Frocks: Fall 1936  32 11
Townley Frocks: 1936, 4 of 5  33 11
Townley Frocks: 1936, 5 of 5  34 12
Townley Frocks: Spring 1937  35 12
Townley Frocks: Spring/Summer 1937  36 12
Townley Frocks: 1937, 1-2 of 3  37-38 13
Townley Frocks: Fall 1937  39 13
Townley Frocks: 1937, 3 of 3  40 14
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1937  41-42 14
Townley Frocks: Summer 1938  43-45 15
Townley Frocks: Fall 1938  46 16
Townley Frocks: 1938, 1-2 of 3  47-48 16
Townley Frocks: 1938, 3 of 3  49 17
Townley Frocks: 1939  50-51 17
Hattie Carnegie: Spring 1939  52 18
Hattie Carnegie: Fall 1939  53 18
Hattie Carnegie: Palm Beach 1939  54 18
Hattie Carnegie: Paris 1940  55-57 19
Win Sum: Fall 1940  58 20
Win Sum: Palm Beach 1940  59 20
Townley Frocks: Spring/Summer 1941  60 20
Townley Frocks: Summer 1941  61 21
Townley Frocks: Fall 1941  62-63 21
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1942  64-65 22
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach/Summer 1942  66 22
Townley Frocks: Fall 1942  67-68 23
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Spring 1943  69 23
70 24
Townley Frocks: Summer 1943  71-72 24
Townley Frocks: Fall 1943  73 25
Townley Frocks: 1944  74 25
Townley Frocks: Spring 1944  75 25
Townley Frocks: Palm Beach 1944  76-77 26
Townley Frocks: Fall 1945  78 27
Townley Frocks: Cotton/Resort 1945  79 27
Townley Frocks: Resort 1945  80 27
Townley Frocks: Fall 1946  81 28
Townley Frocks: Resort 1946  82-83 28
Townley Frocks: Fall 1947  84 29
Townley Frocks: Junior Editions/Holiday Line 1947  85 29
Townley Frocks: Resort 1948  86 29
Townley Frocks: Summer 1948  87 30
Townley Frocks: Summer/Resort 1948  90 31
Townley Frocks: Fall 1948  88 30
Townley Frocks: Early Cotton 1948  89 30
Townley Frocks: Fall 1949  91 31
Townley Frocks: Junior Editions 1948-1949  92 31
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Resort 1949  92 31
93-94 32
Townley Frocks: Fall 1950  95 32
Townley Frocks: Junior Editions 1950  96 33
Townley Frocks: Resort 1950  97-98 33
Townley Frocks: Fall 1951  99 34
Townley Frocks: Stay-Home/Early Cotton, 1951  100 34
Townley Frocks: Early Cotton 1951  101 34
Townley Frocks: Resort 1952  102-103 35
Townley Frocks: Fall 1952  104 35
Townley Frocks: Fall 1953  105 36
Townley Frocks: Resort 1953  106-107 36
Townley Frocks: Fall 1954  108 37
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Resort 1954  109-110 37
111 38
Townley Frocks: Resort/Fall 1955  112 38
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Resort 1955  113 38
114-115 39
Townley Frocks: Baby McCardell Fall/Holiday 1956  116 39
Townley Frocks: Fall 1956  117 40
Title Binder Box
Townley Frocks: Resort 1956  118-119 40
120 41
Townley Frocks: Fall 1957  121 41
Townley Frocks: Resort 1957  122 41
Townley Frocks: Summer 1957  123 42
Townley Frocks: Fall 1957  124 42
Townley Frocks: Fall 1958  125 42
Townley Frocks: Resort 1958  126 43
Townley Frocks: Summer 1958  127 43
Townley Frocks: Summer 1959  128 43

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Collection guide Last Updated: 08/30/2012

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