What do you wear to a book launch party? What should I wear? Why, Tory Burch, of course—unless you can get your hands on some Claire McCardell.
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Published by Claire McCardell, a revolutionary American designer, in 1956 What should I wear?The 1950s guide to stylish dress was McCardell. Fast forward to 2022, McCardell served as the muse for Tory Burch’s spring 2023 collection. Burch collaborated again with Abrams Image to republish the book and bring McCardell back into American culture. For the 2022 edition, Burch wrote a foreword where she described her renewed fascination with McCardell’s oeuvre and an initiative at the Maryland Center for History and Culture to create a Claire McCardell exhibit. She writes: “What’s amazing to me is how her clothes let women feel unencumbered–elegant, yet at ease as they moved through their busy days.”
Claire McCardell may not be a household name today but she was well-known in the middle of the 20th century. Her fashion innovations, which included wrap dresses, spaghetti straps, ballet flats and dresses with pockets and zippers are all considered revolutionary for their time. A Parson graduate who was championed by Vogue’s Diana Vreeland, McCardell was inspired by American streetwear. She designed garments that were inherently feminist, fearless, political, and feminist. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was common for American women to wear her readymade designs, which included skirts made of surplus weather balloons and dresses with adjustable zippers. “Women have been forgotten in history. Claire McCardell is a very important example of that… She was fearless. She was confident. She was radical. She was breaking the norm. She changed the way we dress today,”Burch spoke at the book premiere. “One thing I loved about Claire is that she always said dress for yourself. Don’t dress for your husband.”
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To celebrate the republishing What should I wear?Tory Burch hosted a cocktail reception and art history dialogue at her SoHo boutique, where Sarah Hoover, a writer and art historian, was present. The reception took place on the ground floor at the Tory Burch Mercer street shop, where guests enjoyed cocktails and Tory Burch accessories. Huma Abedin (Emily Ratajkowski), Paul Arnhold, Isolde Birrielmaier, and Stefano Tonchi were all present. Ratajkowski, who just walked in Burch’s New York fashion show last month, wore a look straight off the runway, as did Burch. Sarah Hoover, who wore a McCardell-inspired Tory Burch dress, spoke to VogueLearn more about her personal style advice. “Have fun. Refuse to comply with societal conventions so that you can make room for others. Live your truth through your clothing.”
Later that evening, fashionable guests made their way upstairs to join a moving conversation between Burch & Hoover. Advancing beyond the daily dressing ideas that McCardell wrote in her book, the evening’s topics ranged from feminism to motherhood to rewriting colonialist patriarchal history to comparisons drawn between McCardell and painter Alice Neel. Like Claire McCardell’s 1950s designs, the takeaways from the conversation were timeless and anything but old-fashioned.