American clothing manufacturers looked to Europe for design inspiration in the years before World War II; London for tailored daywear and Paris for elaborate eveningwear. Not until combat closed France's borders were American designers, such as Claire McCardell, enthusiastically promoted by the press or fashion industry.
McCardell insisted that her name appear prominently on garment labels alongside that of her employer, Townley Frocks. Thanks to this important stipulation in her employment contract, she became one of the best-known designers during the 1940s and 50s, helping to establish "The American Look." McCardell's clothes were easy wearing, comfortable, and affordably priced. They were often produced as coordinated ensembles, like this dress and matching one-sleeved wrap. (The striped textile is identical to the one used in another McCardell dress from the same era in the FIDM Museum collection.) Full of "McCardellisms"--bias-cut, mitered stripes, and asymmetrical closure with wrap-and-tie waist--this summer look declares McCardell's own creed: "It's freedom, it's democracy, it's casualness, it's good health. Clothes can say all that."