Student Work

  • Fashion Studies (MA)

    Leslie Lim

    Lim Leslie

    From Here to Modernity: Claire McCardell, The Popover Dress and a Legacy of Modern Design

    American designer Claire McCardell is recognized as a key figure in fashion history who helped establish both American sportswear and New York’s reputation as a fashion capital. This thesis reflects on how McCardell’s work has been perceived beyond her era, focusing specifically on how her designs have been linked to the concept of modernity.

    An independent, career-minded woman, McCardell designed with herself in mind. She created clothes to match her own lifestyle and helped to mold and embody the modern image of an active woman. Her work prized functionality and freedom, marrying comfort and style in a way that foreshadowed current attitudes towards dressing. McCardell’s reputation was also cemented by the fact that she paid little heed to trends and viewed her work from a longer-term perspective.

    This thesis also examines McCardell’s Popover dress, a simple denim wrap dress created during World War II, which became a widespread commercial success, as a case study of McCardell’s design tenets. In addition to reflecting a consideration of women's bodies and roles and the new demands placed upon them, the Popover dress highlighted developments in de facto feminism. It is a manifestation of seminal ideas reflecting both its context and the changes to come.