The New School Archives Digital Collections

Claire McCardell fashion sketches ➔ Townley Frocks 1941


Related people/organizations

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


circa 1941

Work Type



8.5 in (width) x 11 in (height)


After working for Hattie Carnegie and Win-Sum between 1939 and 1940, McCardell returned to Townley Frocks, Inc. when the company reopened on the condition that her name would be presented on the garment labels moving forward. According to an article in Women’s Wear Daily on January 9, 1941, her first collection after returning to Townley included padded shoulders, wrap-around pleated dresses, and suits with notched collars and middy ties. Other designs shown in this series of sketches include jumpsuits, tunics, pullovers, and dresses with peplum skirts, surplice bodices, and large patch pockets. Some sketches include threads and fabric swatches. The United States didn’t enter World War II until December, but McCardell’s simple and functional designs already began to reflect wartime sensibilities at the start of the year. An inscription included in this series mentions “homespun silk”, possibly referring to the need to rely more on American textile manufacturing during this time. During this year, McCardell’s debuted her “Kitchen Dinner Dress”, which became one of her most notable designs. The simple dress was made with cotton print or plaid silk, and featured surplice closings, attached aprons, and full skirts that were cut just above the ankle. A few sketches within the series depict this style, including one labeled #516, which also includes the name of the style in the inscription. An illustration of McCardell’s middy blouse and backless dress combination was featured in the April 23, 1941 issue of Women’s Wear Daily. The same design can be found in this series in the sketch labeled #815.


“The Demand For Something Different.” Women’s Wear Daily. April 23, 1941: 3.; “Townley Reopens.” Women’s Wear Daily. January 9, 1941: 19.; Yohannan, Kohle and Nancy Nolf. Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998.

Related Terms

Kellen Design Archives


binders 60-65



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