The revolutionary fashion designer credited with originating the
"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, pedal-pushers, bareback
summer dresses, strapless swimsuits, and feminine denim fashion,
and started the trend for ballet flats-a signature Audrey Hepburn
look-as a wartime leather-rationing measure. McCardell's fashions
were taken up by working women and high society alike. There are
wonderful photographs from the period of clotheshorses Slim Keith,
Babe Paley, and C. Z. Guest looking impossibly chic in McCardell
fashions for their leisure-time activities.
First published in 1956, What Shall I Wear? is a distillation of
McCardell's democratic fashion philosophy and a practical guide to
looking effortlessly stylish, without enslavement to expensive and
confining Parisian designs. A retro treat full of charming
illustrations, instructions for sewing some of her classic designs,
and still-solid advice including the designer's "McCardellisms,"
What Shall I Wear? is a tribute to the American spirit in fashion,
carried on today by such designers as Marc Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi,
Donna Karan, and Michael Kors.