Mona Von Bismarck cried Three Days when Cristobal Balenciaga retired (part two)

14 Sep
Mona von Bismarck. Photo by Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936.
 Mona von Bismarck. Ph. Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936.
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Countess Mona Bismarck (February 5, 1897 – July 10, 1983) was an American socialite and fashion icon. She married five times and was celebrated by Cecil Beaton and Salvador Dalí, satirized by Truman Capote in Answered Prayers, and memorialized in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue! In 1933, she was voted “the best-dressed woman in the world” by Coco Chanel and other top designers, and she developed a close friendship with Cristóbal Balenciaga in her 30 years as a client and patron.

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Short Biography

mona von bismarck
mona von bismarck
mona von bismarck
 Mona von Bismarck wearing Balenciaga in her Parisian hôtel particulier . Photo by Cecil Beaton, 1955.
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In January 1955 Mona married her “secretary” Albrecht Edzard Heinrich Karl, Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen (1903-1970), an “interior decorator” of an aristocratic sort and the son of Herbert von Bismarck and grandson of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. First the civil marriage in New Jersey and a year later the religious marriage in Rome. Mona became Countess von Bismarck. 

Countess von Bismarck outdid heiress Barbara Hutton when she bought new 88 outfits, following this with a total of 140 items over the next two years. 

Ever energetic, for her own enjoyment, Mona read, swam, did needlework, wrote a book, and cultivated prize tulips. She kept dogs, her favorite being Mickey, a lap mutt.

Eddie von Bismarck died in 1966. Mona now resident in Capri and cut herself off from most of her friends.

Count and Countess von BismarckCount and Countess von Bismarck
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Cristóbal Balenciaga, who made her gardening clothes, too, showed his last collection in 1968 and retired. Mona grieved for three days, shutting herself behind closed doors in the villa in Capri.
Perhaps Mona was not designed for life alone, in 1971, she married Bismarck’s physician, Umberto di Martini, she was 74 and he was 60. Through her old friend, Italy’s exiled King Umberto II, Mona purchased the title “count” for him. Martini served simple pasta dishes with inexpensive wines and dismissed her long-time employees (he was alleged to keep her medicated). It was only after his death in a sports car accident in 1979 (later referenced by socialites as “Martini on the rocks”), Mona realized that de Martini, like Bismarck, had married her for her money (exactly the same way she had married Schlesinger, Bush and Williams, so many years before), only di Martini turned out to be already married and having told her that he was opening a clinic, he had already pocketed $3 million in a Swiss bank account .
mona von bismarck
Mona von Bismarck

Mona’s old friend Cecil Beaton visited her at Capri and was shocked to find that all traces of her famous beauty had left her. “She is now suddenly a wreck. Her hair, once white and crisp and a foil to her aquamarine eyes, is now a little dried frizz, and she has painted a grotesque mask on the remains of what was once such a noble-hewn face, the lips enlarged like a clown, the eyebrows penciled with thick black grease paint, the flesh down to the pale lashes coated with turquoise… Oh, my heart broke for her.”

Cecil BeatonCecil Beaton

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Mona’s health started to fail. She spent her last years putting her affairs in order and on 10 July 1983, she died at her house in Paris. She was buried in a Givenchy gown with her third and fourth husbands, Harrison Williams and Count Eddie von Bismarck, at Glen Cove on Long Island. Of the $90 million she had inherited from Williams, $25 million remained.
5546972a00fa5467a050e9b657c1bc0b

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Hubert de Givenchy’s comments on Countess Mona von Bismarck

On one occasion Monsieur de Givenchy was reported to have made the following comments about his favorite client Countess Mona von Bismarck, ” She was splendid as could be seen in the portrait that Dali had painted of her, and had seduced five husbands. She was mad about pearls and brought them in kilos during cruises in the China Sea and the ports of Japan. She had two lifts of different speeds installed in her apartment in Ave de New York; the faster one was for the domestics so that they could reach the landing before her to open the door.”

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Exhibition of Mona’s wardrobe curated by Hubert de Givenchy

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Book

Kentucky Countess: Mona Bismarck in Art & Fashion

book cover

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info: Wikipedia, VoguePedia, Style.com, The Independent & the Mona von Bismarck foundation
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Mona von Bismarck topped the List of World’s Best Dressed Women (part one)

7 Sep
ph. Cecil Beaton
Mona von Bismarck. Ph. Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936.
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From her humble beginnings in Kentucky, a girl named Edmona Strader transformed herself into Mona Schlesinger Bush Williams Bismarck-Schönhausen de Martini, the queen of international society and fashion icon, who became the world’s most photographed non-professional mannequin. She possessed charm, liveliness and a sense of humor. Her ladder up the social ranks was a familiar one: She arose quickly by marrying a series of older, wealthier men.

Mona was one of the most remarkable American women of her century.

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Short Biography

Mrs. Harrison Williams, later Mona, the Countess of Bismarck, in front of her portrait by Sorin. Photo by Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1933.
 Mrs. Harrison Williams in front of her portrait by Sorin, ph. Cecil Beaton in Vogue, October, 1933
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Margaret Edmona “Mona” Travis Strader was born in Louisville, 1897.  She was beautiful even as a child and developed into a stunning woman. At 20, she married Henry J. Schlesinger, who was 18 years older. Her wedding gift from the groom was “a magnificent rope of pearls.” Together they had a son, Robert H. Schlesinger, whom she left in the custody of his father in exchange for half a million dollars, when they divorced in 1920. One year later, Mona married banker and athlete James Irving Bush, fourteen years her senior and reputedly “the handsomest man in America.” This would be her second unhappy marriage and after four years, in 1925, they divorced.

Mona returned to New York, where in 1926, she opened a dress shop with a close friend, Laura Merriam Curtis. Laura was engaged to Harrison Williams, but three days after the announcement of the engagement, Laura abandoned Harrison and remarried her former husband, James Freeman Curtis. Mona, who first met Harrison at her second wedding, got reintroduced to the richest man in America with an estimated fortune of $680 million ($8,000 million in today dollars).

harrison williamsMr. Harrison Williams
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On July 2, 1926, Mona married Harrison, who was a widower 24 years her senior. For their honeymoon they went on a cruise around the world on Harrisons  Warrior, a steam yacht with ten staterooms and a crew of 45, at the time, the largest, most expensive pleasure boat in the world. The couple stopped in Ceylon, India, Iraq, and China.

When they returned, Mona and her husband divided their time between residences in New York, Palm Beach, Paris and Capri.  Their social circle included statesmen and politicians such as American Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower; royalty – the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Princess Grace of Monaco; and an impressive number of writers and artists, including Greta Garbo, Cristòbal Balienciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Paul Newman and Enrich Maria Remarque.

Even after losing a lot of assets in the stock market crash of 1929, Harrisons wealth and position afforded Mona a lavish lifestyle, which included buying and wearing the most beautiful couture. Her favorite couturier was Cristóbal Balenciaga, with whom she developed a close friendship in the 30 years she was a client and patron. To complement her radiant complexion, Mona prefered to wear colors like beige, gray or smoked blue and for evening, pastels.

It was said that Givenchy dressed the rich; Balenciaga the very rich – and Mona was married to the richest man in the world.

Mona von Bismarck with her cigarette case that once belonged to Louis XIV. Photo by Cecil Beaton. Vogue, February 1, 1938.Mrs. Harrison Williams with her cigarette case that once belonged to Louis XIV. Dres by Vionnet, ph. Cecil Beaton. Vogue, February 1938  
mrs. Harrison Williams
 
Countess Mona von Bismarck with Cecil Beaton and Ben Ali Haggin at the Metropolian Opera Ball, April 28, 1933.Mona with Cecil Beaton and Ben Ali Haggin at the Metropolian Opera Ball, April 28, 1933
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In time she became known as one of the most glamorous and beautiful women in New York. In 1933, Mona was the first American to be elected one of the ten best dressed women in the world by the Parisian couturiers, including Chanel, Molyneux, Vionnet, Lelong, and Lanvin.

The next year she again topped the list of world’s best dressed women. Newspapers estimated she did spend $50,000 a year on clothing, accessories, and furs. “Mrs. Harrison Williams was among the few exceptionally beautiful women who marked the 1930s,” friend Cecil Beaton wrote. He photographed and wrote about her for the February 1 issue of Vogue, 1939.

After a railroad accident destroyed many of her clothes, she ordered 150 dresses from Balenciaga in one sitting. In 1940, Mrs. Harrison Williams tops the new International Best Dressed List, now picked by American fashion designers. Three years later Salvador Dalí painted her portrait.

Mona’s first happy marriage that ended in 1953, when Harrison Williams died at the age of 80 at the couple’s Long Island estate.

Mrs Harrisson Williams 1939 Portrait Photo Cecil Beaton Jewels Art DecoMrs Harrisson Williams 1939 Portrait Photo Cecil Beaton .

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 Pieces of Mona’s wardrobe

BalenciagaBalenciaga, 1955

BalenciagaBalenciaga, 1959

2Balenciaga, 1964 

Mona Williams von Bismark-Schonhausen de Martini, Balenciaga evening ensemble, 1968Balenciaga, 1968

balenciagaBalenciaga

balenc. 1Balenciaga

BalenciagaBalenciaga

BalenciagaBalenciaga 

VionnetVionnet

VionnetVionnet

VionnetVionnet

Charles JamesCharles James

Charles JamesCharles James

13Chanel

Bright Is the MorningChanel

detail Chanel dress

detail Chanel dress

 

next week:  Mona von Bismarck cries three days when Balenciaga retired

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info: Wikipedia, VoguePedia, Style.com, The Independent & the Mona von Bismarck foundation

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, a multi talent (Part two)

31 Aug
Eiffel Tower by Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue magazine, 1939. Lucien Lelong dressLisa Fonssagrives wearing a dress by Lucien Lelong in death-defying pose high on top of the Eiffel Tower overlooking the city of Paris. Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld, French Vogue, May 1939

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In 1952, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the celebrated (first) supermodel effectively retires from modeling after her son, Tom Penn, is born. She begins designing clothes by the mid-’50s. At first just an occasional dress for one of her husband’s (Irving Penn) advertising campaigns, but then people begin to special order evening gowns and suddenly she finds herself designing a line of at-home clothes for Lord and Taylor. Eventually she designs sportswear for them too. This lasts a good six years. When Lisa and Irving have to move, because the Central Park West building will be torn down, she stops designing, not being allowed to have a business in the new apartment. It is time for something else.

In their Long Island house, Lisa spends more and more time in her sculpture studio and enrolls in the Art Students League to sharpen her drawing skills. Finally Lisa and Irving move to Long Island definitely. 

She begins exhibiting her sculptures and paintings in group shows in 1968 and later has many solo shows. She will be represented by the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan.

“I was a sculptor all my life,” Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn once said, “I was a form in space.”

Lisa dies February 4, 1992 in New York of pneumonia , survived by her second husband, Irving Penn and her two children: her daughter Mia Fonssagrives-Solow, a costume designer who is married to real estate developer Sheldon Solow, and her son, Tom Penn, a designer.

David Seidner, Lisa Fonssagrives at the Crillon, Paris, 1990Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in the Crillon, Paris (by David Seidner, 1990) was a multi talent. During her life she was a successful dancer/ dance teacher, model, photographer, fashion designer and sculptor.

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Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar covers

The black and white issue June 1950, Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
lisa-fonssagrives-British-Vogue-1951-London-Paris-Collections-Erwin-BlumenfeldPh. Erwin Blumenfeld

may-1950-vogue-cover-lisa-fonssagrives

British Vogue Oct. 1951, cover by Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
Vogue coverPh. Horst P. Horst
Ph, Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
dec-1950-vogue-lisa-fonssagrives-coverPh. Irving Penn  
Louise Dahl-WolfePh. Louise Dahl-Wolf
Harper's Bazaar cover
 
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And many other beautiful photographs

1949

 

lisa by Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
Lisa FonssagrivesChicken Hat, ph. Irving Penn
lisa , chicken hat
Chicken Hat, ph. Irving Penn (2)
lisa-fonssagrives-lilly-dache-hat-irving-penn-vogue-feb-15-1950 Lilly Dache hat, Ph. Irving Penn
penn, 1949
 Ph. Irving Penn
vogue-1952-lisa-fonssagrives-penn-irving-penn
Ph. Irving Penn
Lisa Fonssagrives
  
irving-penn-wife-lisa
  Ph. Irving Penn
Lisa-fonssagrives-irving-penn
 Ph. Irving Penn
07penn-500_thumb[2]
Woman with Roses on her Arm,  Ph. Irving Penn
suit by Charles James, Vogue, 1950 Horst
Ph. Horst P. Horst
22hamlet-coiffure22-worn-by-lisa-fonssagrives-photo-by-irving-penn-vogue-march-1-1949
 Ph. Irving Penn

Irving PennPh. Irving Penn

Vogue early 40's image by Horst Model Lisa FonssagrivesPh. Horst P. Horst
Irving Penn for Vogue, July 1, 1952Ph. Irving Penn
1955 Modess advertisement. Yes, you read that right. Modess as in sanitary napkins.
 Modess advertisement, sanitary napkins. Ph. Irving Penn

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Books

Lisa Fonssagrives: Three Decades of Classic Fashion Photography

book cover

 http://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Fonssagrives-Decades-Classic-Photography/dp/0865659788/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408631601&sr=8-1&keywords=lisa+fonssagrives+three+decades+of+classic+fashion+photography

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Irving Penn: Photographs. A Donation in Memory of Lisa Fonssagrive-Penn

irving penn

The complete set of images that Irving Penn donated to the Swedish museum in memory of his Swedish-born wife. A gorgeous production with exquisite printing.

http://www.amazon.com/Irving-Penn-Photographs-Fonssagrive-Penn-Fonssagrives-Penn/dp/B000SL8I00/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1408877127&sr=8-16&keywords=lisa+fonssagrives

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Harper´s Bazaar, 1957

info: Wikipedia, VoguePedia and interview with David Seidner

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, a multi talent (part one)

24 Aug
Irving Penn with his wife, model Lisa Fonssagrives, 1951Irving Penn & Lisa Fonssagrives, 1951
 

Which photograph can open my story about Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn……? I mean, the’re so many amazing pictures of the woman widely credited as the first supermodel. I know, many are named or self-proclaimed “first supermodel”, but for me and many others Lisa is the one!

I chose a photograph of Lisa and the love of her life, Irving Penn. 

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Short Biography

By Fernand Fonssagrives for L'Oreal shampoo - 1935-37Lisa photographed by first husband Fernand Fonssagrives for L’Oreal, 1935-37
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Born Lisa Birgitta Bernstone (May 17, 1911), Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn spends her childhood in Uddevalla, Sweden. As a young girl she takes up painting, sculpting and dancing. At 17, her parents want her to take cooking lessons, but Lisa is determined to pursue dancing. Three years later, she moves to Berlin to take classes with choreographer MaryWigman, a pioneer of Expressionist dance (Mary Wigman was a pioneer of modern dance in the spirit of Martha Graham).  After finishing Wigman’s, she returns to Stockholm to open her own dance school.

In 1933, Lisa takes a train to Paris, after she is asked by renowned Swedish choreographer Astrid Malmbörg  to join her in Paris for an international competition. She falls in love with the city and decides to stay. Lisa meets fellow dancer Fernand Fonssagrives with whom she marries in 1935. Together they give private dance lessons in their apartment .

Fernand Fonssagrives’ nude photographs of Lisa

fernand-fonssagrives-sand-fence-c-1930

fernand_fonssagrives_le_truite_1935

fernand-fonssagrives-la-plage-de-cabasson-1936-lisa-fonssagrives-by-her-husband-fernand-fonssagrives

In the elevator of their apartment building, Lisa catches the eye of fashion photographer Willy Maywald, who asks her to model hats for him (Willy Maywald, a fashion photographer for the houses of Dior, Fath, Griffe, and Jacques Heim. He also worked for Harper’s Bazaar). Fernand takes the prints to French Vogue, where a test shoot is promptly set up with Horst P. Horst. Lisa arrives terrified, in a homemade brown wool suit and long, wild hair. “I had never seen a fashion magazine,” she will later recall. “I didn’t know what fashion was . . .,  had no idea of what to do with myself.” The next day, she visits the Louvre to study paintings of people posing in various forms of dress. 

Lisa begins modeling for Vogue and for her husband, who has taken up the camera following a back injury. In between the collections, the two roam Europe, photographing and selling nudes, sports, and nature shots to magazines all over.

Lisa Fonssagrives becomes the first recognisable model in Vogue.

A memorable Vogue cover

In this cover of Vogue magazine, Lisa poses in a blue and white bathing suit while sitting in a ‘V’ position, to spell out the word ‘Vogue.  The first, black & white picture is a study for the final one (third picture). 

Horst P. Horst photographed this for the June 1, 1940, issue.

lisa-fonssagrives-photographed-by-horst-p-horst-1940

model-lisa-fonssagrives-in-blue-and-white-bathing-suit-by-brigance-january-1940

lisa-fonssagrives-photographed-by-horst-p-horst-1940-vogue-cover

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Following a Swedish vacation, the Fonssagriveses are en route to New York when war is declared in Europe. They decide to emigrate to America. Fernand begins photographing for Town & Country; Lisa connects with exiled European photographers including Horst P. Horst and Erwin Blumenfeld. She also enlists with the John Robert Powers modeling agency, doing both editorial and commercial work.

Daughter Mia Fonssagrives is born in 1941. When Lisa returns to modeling, she reduces her workload to 20 hours a week. For a long time she won’t be photographed for Vogue.

12 beauties by Irving Penn

Irving Penn’s image of “12 Beauties: The Most Photographed Models in America” runs in Vogue in May 1947; it marks Lisa’s first appearance in the magazine since 1941 and it’s the first time she works with Irving Penn (who placed Lisa at the center of the composition, a delicate ice-carved swan). Recalling this glimpse of his future wife, Irving later says, “I loved her when I first set eyes on her.”  The attraction is mutual.

Lisa becomes the first model ever to grace the cover of Time in 1949. The “Billion-Dollar Baby” is the “highest-paid, highest-praised high-fashion model in the business, considered by many of her colleagues the greatest fashion model of all time.”

harlequin-dress-lisa-fonssagrives-1950-irving-pennb

In Vogue April 1950, one of Irving’s most memorable portraits of Lisa is published, wearing a harlequin dress and portrait hat. A few months later she models the Paris couture for Irving in a top-floor, north-lit studio on Paris’s Rue de Vaugirard. These pictures will be published in Vogue following September.

After the couture shoot, the couple travels to London. By now Lisa’s marriage to Fernand Fonssagrives is over and she weds Irving Penn at the Chelsea Register Office.

In 1952, a son is born, Tom Penn and Lisa effectively retires from modeling, taking on the occasional job for old pals in the field. She also ends her own photography career, which started in 1947, taking pictures for Ladies’ Home Journal. Her apartment darkroom is changed into a nursery.

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The 1950  Paris Couture series by Irving Penn

Balenciaga coatCristobal Balenciaga coat 
 
marcel rochas
Marcel Rochas dress
 
Dior, photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue in 1950
Christian Dior coat
 
balenciaga, 1950, penn
 Cristobal Balenciaga coat  
 
 Balenciaga Vogue, 1950
 Cristobal Balenciaga petal dress
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Lisa’s vision on modelling 

“Making a beautiful picture is making art, isn’t it?” With a photographer’s eye, observing the way light hit the dress she was wearing as well as its drape. Then, with a discipline and dramatic flair learned from years of dance, she would stand in front of the camera and as she once put it, “concentrate my energy until I could sense it radiate into the lens.” She called it “still dancing.”

“There were no strobe lights in those days, but very hot spots, often live thousand watts on either side of you and the exposures were long. You could feel the sweat trickling down your face and the assistant would come over and hand you a towel. In fact I remember one time in New York in the ’50s when I was modeling fur coats in the summer. And there were no air conditioned studios then. It was so hot that I just fainted. And they propped me right back up and I went straight back to work.”

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1950One of the first pictures after their mariage, Liusa Fonssagrives-Penn, photo by husband Irving Penn. A strapless cloud of tulle from Christian Dior’s landmark New Look collection.
 

 

info for this story: Wikipedia, VoguePedia & an intervieuw with David Seidner in Bomb magazine
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Next week: Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn (Part two)

Claire McCardell once named The High Priestess of Understatement (part 2)

17 Aug

Claire McCardell

Claire McCardell
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Claire McCardell was the founder of American ready-to-wear fashion, and in doing so defined what has become known as The American Look. She created casual but sophisticated clothes with a functional design, which reflected the lifestyles of American women. McCardell’s design philosophy was that clothes should be practical, comfortable, and feminine.

Claire addressed the subject of the great New York–Paris divide: “The basic difference,” she said, “is that we American women always look as if our feet were on the ground and European women mince.” She wasn’t speaking entirely metaphorically, either: She had popularized the ballet slipper as streetwear, when faced with leather shortages during the war; moreover, she built into her clothes “the McCardell slouch,” which she taught her models.

mcCardell-Time-1955

In 1955 Time Magazine published an article in which Claire McCardell’s designs were advertised “dresses that are as at home in the front seat of a station wagon as in the back seat of a Rolls, as comfortable in the vestibule of a motel as in the lobby of the Waldorf, as fitting for work in the office as for cocktails and dinner with the boss.” 

“Claire started the feeling for Americana,” Vogue’s Babs Simpson told Time. “I’ve always designed things I needed myself. It just turns out that other people need them, too,” Claire quoted.

Her clothes were functional and simple with clean lines. They were considered subtly sexy with functional decorations. She utilized details from men’s work clothing, such as large pockets, denim fabric, blue-jean topstitching, metal rivets and trouser pleats. The idea of separates, in coordinating colors and creating endless configurations was revolutionary, because of its practicality and economic.

Before Claire, noboddy dared to use jersey, rayon, calico, seersucker, gingham, and cotton voiles for evening wear. She loved easy and accessible fasteners in her clothing, from zippers, to toggles, to rope. Her Madras cotton halter-style full-length hostess gowns were shown for evening.

Life magazine

Life publishes photographs (by Mark Shaw) of Claire’s designs made of fabrics created by major artists, including Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, in 1955.
Claire McCardell top and slacks with Pablo Pacasso's print, in his studio, 1955Picasso-print  ensemble  
 pablo picasso studio cannes 1955 mark shaw
Picasso-print  ensemble 
 Mark Shaw Marc Chagall in Studio, 1955 2
Marc Chagall-print dress 
Claire McCardell dress with print designed by Marc Chagall, 1955Marc Chagall-print dress 
Fernand Leger-print dress
Fernand Leger-print dress
mark shaw joan miro and model in studio 1955Joan Miro-print dress  
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Her design trademarks were double top-stitching, brass hardware replacing buttons with decorative hooks, spagetti ties, large patch pockets, and Empire waists. Claire also brought denim to the fashion forefront as a dress fabric, as well as mattress ticking, and wool fleece. Manmade fibers, too, were a source of innovation. She also loved leotards, hoods, pedal pushers, and dirndl skirts. Surprising color combinations were trademarks of Claire’s work. 

The beauty of her clothes lay in the cut which then produced a clean, functional garment. Her clothes accentuated the female form without artificial understructures and padding. Rather than use shoulder pads, McCardell used the cut of the sleeve to enhance the shoulder. Relying on the bias cut, she created fitted bodices and swimsuits which flattered the wearer. Full circle skirts, neatly belted or sashed at the waist without crinolines underneath, a mandatory accessory for the New Look, created the illusion of the wasp waist. The clothes often had adjustable components, such as drawstring necklines and waists, to accommodate many different body types…

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The American Look by Claire McCardell 

The American Look

The American Look

The American Look

The American Look

The American Look

The American Look

 

 Unfortunately, Claire’s life and work were cut short by a diagnosis of terminal colon cancer in 1957.  Many believed that she was just then reaching the height of her career, and yet, despite the prognosis, the designer worked feverishly to complete her final collection.  With the help of long-time friend and classmate at Parsons, Mildred Orrick, Claire completed her final collection from her hospital bed, getting up to alter the sketches when they were not to her liking. One of her brothers, Adrian, recalled how, “In spite of her impending death, anything coming out in her name she wanted to make sure was hers.” On the day of the show, Claire checked herself out of the hospital to personally introduce the collection.  Many fashion followers realized this would be her final showing and crowded New York City’s Pierre Hotel for the show, giving her a standing ovation at the conclusion.

 On March 22, 1958, at the age of 52, Claire McCardell passed away.

Claire McCardell

 “I’ve always designed things I needed myself. It just turns out that other people need them, too,”
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 McCardell’s innovations or “McCardellisms” 

Claire contributed many “firsts” to the world of American fashion.  Her revolutionary 1938 Monastic dress was certainly one such revolutionary innovation, as was her use of blue-jean stitching and trouser pleats and pockets in women’s clothing. Like the Monastic dress, the “popover” in 1942, a “wrap-around coverall in denim,” sold more than 75,000 copies in the first season alone and Claire included variations of the popover in every succeeding collection. She also modernized the dirndl skirt, a traditional German full skirt gathered at the waist, in 1938 and although it was not popular at first, variations of the dirndl skirt remain a popular clothing staple even today.  She was also the first to incorporate the “riveted look” using “work-clothes grippers for fasteners and ornamentation. As one of the most innovative bathing-suits designers around, she introduced diaper and bloomer silhouette.s

Claire gave American women a look that set them apart from the traditional Parisian influences and helped make the everyday, such as homemaker chores, fashionable and stylish. At the same time, her designs encouraged American women to wear clothes that flattered their individual bodies and were comfortable, not restrictive ((Claire was the sworn enemy of shoulder pads), therefore ushering in a new approach to American fashion and women’s clothing.

She also started a craze for dance flats (especially Capezio) to be worn on the streets and even under evening dresses!

 

 Sunglasses by Claire McCardell for Accessocraft

Accessocraft

Accessocraft

Accessocraft

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Exhibitions

Three Women – Madeleine Vionnet, Claire McCardell, Rei Kawakubo

three_women_vionnet_mccardell_kawakubo_fit_1987_0

1987, exhibition in FIT-Fashion Institute of Technology-Museum: Curator: Richard Martin.

Due to this exhibition, the three designers work earned them a special award in 1987 from the Council of Fashion Designers of America

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Women-Madeleine-McCardell-Kawakubo/dp/B0044PP6O2

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Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism”

redefining modernism

1998, exhibition opens at F.I.T. “In McCardell’s honest clothes,” publicist Eleanor Lambert writes, “you see the women of the Plains in a completely modern idiom.”

http://www.amazon.com/Claire-Mccardell-Kohle-Yohannan/dp/0810943751/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-6081323-3268934?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173982477&sr=8-

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Book

What Shall I Wear?  The What, Where, When and How Much of Fashion.

what shal l wear

 

Book description:

The revolutionary fashion designer credited with originating “The American Look,” Claire McCardell designed for the emerging active lifestyle of women in the 1940s and ’50s. She was the originator of mix-and-match separates, open-backed sundresses, and feminine denim fashion; she started the trend for ballet flats as a wartime leather-rationing measure. Spaghetti straps, brass hooks and eyes as fasteners, rivets, menswear details and fabrics: they were all started by McCardell. Her Monastic and Pop-over dresses achieved cult status, and her fashions were taken up by working women, the suburban set, and high society alike.

First published in 1956, What Shall I Wear? is a distillation of McCardell’s democratic fashion philosophy and a chattily vivacious guide to looking effortlessly stylish. Mostly eschewing Paris, although she studied there and was influenced by Vionnet and Madame Gres, McCardell preferred an unadorned aesthetic; modern and minimalist, elegant and relaxed, even for evening, with wool jersey and tweed among her favorite fabrics.

What Shall I Wear? provides a glimpse into the sources of McCardell’s inspiration–travel, sports, the American leisure lifestyle, and her own closet–and  how she transformed them into fashion, all the while approaching design from her chosen vantage point of usefulness. A retro treat for designers and everyone who loves fashion–vintage and contemporary–and teeming with charming illustrations and still-solid advice for finding your own best look, creatively shopping on a budget, and building a real wardrobe that is chic and individual, What Shall I Wear? is a tribute to the American spirit in fashion.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-shall-i-wear-claire-mccardell/1118070664?ean=9781585679706

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photograph by Frances McLaughlin-Gill. Published in Vogue, November 15, 1944..

Info:    VoguePedia, http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/013500/013581/html/13581bio.html & The fashion encyclopedia

a lot of pictures found: http://www.metmuseum.org

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