The New School Archives Digital Collections

Claire McCardell fashion sketches ➔ Townley Frocks 1937


Related people/organizations

Claire McCardell (designer)
Townley Frocks (Firm) (commissioner)


circa 1937

Work Type



8.5 in (width) x 11 in (height)


Sketches show a variety of simple dresses as well as pajamas, harem pants, playsuits, and slacks. Skirts sketched in the beginning of the year were full and short, which then became increasingly straighter later on. In this year, McCardell designed Townley’s first line of bathing suits, some of which can be found within this series. Her swimwear attracted media attention due to the amount of skin that they showed, which contrasted the heavy swimwear that most women wore at the time. McCardell’s swimwear, made from lightweight jersey, allowed for greater freedom of movement. Some sketches (such as the one labeled #226) appear to show design elements that would evolve into her iconic and wildly successful Monastic dress that debuted the following year. The sketch labeled #941 mentions the use of a “Brown Picasso print”, perhaps foreshadowing her use of artist prints (including Picasso) on fabrics for her clothes in the 1950s. A number of sketches in this series do not appear to be made by McCardell, including the ones numbered 853-855, 858-859, 861, 863, 865-866, 868-870, and 875. The creator of these sketches is unknown. Inscriptions found on various sketches in this series refer to French designers and New York retailers, including Maggy Rouff, Jay Thorpe, and Alix Barton (Madame Grès).


Yohannan, Kohle and Nancy Nolf. Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998.

Related Terms

Kellen Design Archives


binders 35-42



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