The New School Archives Digital Collections

Claire McCardell fashion sketches ➔ Townley Frocks 1943


Related people/organizations

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


circa 1943

Work Type



8.5 in (width) x 11 in (height)


In 1942, the U.S. government issued the L-85 order, which dictated the types of fibers and exact yardage that designers could use. McCardell was easily able to adapt to these restraints, as she already preferred minimal design and inexpensive, utilitarian fabrics. Sketches in this series depict simple dresses, jumpsuits, and two-piece suits that were geared towards women who were working at home or entering the workforce to aid the war effort. Her wrap-and-tie designs eliminated the need for zippers and metal closures, which were also limited due to the needs of the war. McCardell introduced the Pop-Over dress in 1942, a wrap-front denim dress with an attached oven mitt that sold for just $6.95. She continued to make variations of her popular Pop-Over dress for the following spring, as indicated in a Women’s Wear Daily article from January 13, 1943. A prime example of one can be found in this series in the sketch labeled #513. A number of other notable designs from this year are found within the series. The red striped ensemble shown in sketch #889, the playsuit depicted in sketch #809, and the sundress depicted in sketch #641 all appear to be identical to garments currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume collection. Additionally, McCardell received great notoriety for her all-in-one wool jersey leotards and pullover sweaters, which were shown on the cover of the September 13, 1943 issue of Life magazine. An ensemble from the Life cover consisting of a tunic and full-body striped leotard is depicted in sketches labeled #336 and #337, and can also be found together in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume collection. Another notable design from this year was McCardell’s “diaper” swimsuit, although there does not appear to be a sketch that clearly illustrates this design.


“Sportswear: Wide Sleeves With Deep Armhole Stressed In Spring Collection.” Women's Wear Daily. January 13, 1943: 14.; Yohannan, Kohle and Nancy Nolf. Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998.

Related Terms

Kellen Design Archives


binders 69-73



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