Fashion / Style

Tory Burch Gives a Heartfelt Tribute to a Pioneering Women’s Designer — Claire McCardell Gets a Moment

Designing With a Real Purpose

BY // 10.04.21

NEW YORK — As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, some designers are revving up their evening wear business with flashy looks for the perceived pent-up demand from customers who are ready to party. But Tory Burch is taking a bit of a different route.

For her new collection, the popular designer is emphasizing comfort and ease in a sportswear collection that is a tribute to Claire McCardell, an influential designer during the Great Depression and World War II era.

McCardell underscored the practical side of fashion, creating dresses that could be pulled over the head, and was said to be the first to incorporate a zipper into her designs. She created clothing with roomy, dolman-sleeved jackets and skirted business suits at a time when women were first starting to enter the workplace in greater numbers and pioneered the concept of interchangeable wardrobes, with mix-and-match pieces that emphasized long-lasting wearability at a reasonable price.

“Casual never means careless,” McCardell famously said.

“She discarded the rules of what women should wear, instead problem-solving for the reality of their lives. Her designs instilled a sense of freedom, encouraged self-expression and empowered women with a casual elegance that is as relevant today as it was in the late 1940s,” Burch writes in her program notes.

Tory Burch spring 22 collection, look 19
Tory Burch stretch cotton mock-neck, cotton poplin skirt with topstitch pocket and waistband, embossed hobo bag, multi-color ballet flat. (Photo courtesy of Tory Burch)

The McCardell influence is seen in the flattering, roomy shapes of Burch’s latest collection, as well as the use of contrasting prints, bright colors and luxe fabrics combined with more humble materials. Burch mixes silk chiffon with linen burlap, cotton poplin and matte jersey, and tech knits with silk duponi. Dresses are collaged in picnic and Madras plaids, with color-blocked reversible jersey tops and stripes in every direction. McCardell had a particular love of stripes.

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Tory Burch and Her McCardell Touches

Other McCardell touches include hook-and-eye closures, double topstitching and exaggerated pockets on relaxed trousers. Most looks in Burch’s collection feature a defined waist draped with broad belts, long sashes, or tech-knit bandeaus and skirts with volume.

A new bucket bag, the Lampshade, is the inverse of the the 1950s-inspired lampshade hat. Other new accessories include cat-eye sunglasses, sculptural jewelry, oversized totes and hobos crafted in raffia and double topstitched leather with hook-and-eye closures, and pointed and rounded flats, accented with ankle ties or studs. Two of the shoe designs are taken directly  from McCardell’s work, including  a flat she created with Capezio in 1953 and a striped silk-cotton boot.

Tory Burch Spring/Summer 2022 Collection & Mercer Street Block Party
Tory Burch bucket hat. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Tory Burch)

To showcase the collection, Burch turned the SoHo neighborhood where she recently opened a new store into a block party with an outdoor runway show and performances by dancer Lil Buck and drummer Cornelio. The models were certainly thankful for the low-heeled shoes and flats featured in the collection as they navigated the cobblestone street turned runway.

After the show, guests ate, drank and shopped at booths operated by famous New York vendors like Balthazar, BonBon Swedish candy, Maman, Morgenstern Ice Cream, Mercer Street Books and Records, and Vesuvio Bakery that lined the runway.

This collection is part of  Burch’s onging partnership with the Maryland Center for History and Culture, which houses McCardell’s personal archives. Burch also announced the establishment of the Tory Burch Claire McCardell Fashion Fellowship at MCHC to help preserve the designer’s legacy.

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