First published in 1956, What Shall I Wear? is revolutionary fashion designer Claire McCardell’s collection of fashion wisdom and philosophy, and a vivacious guide to looking effortlessly stylish. This new edition of the sought-after classic features a foreword by iconic designer Tory Burch and a color insert of photos from McCardell’s collections.
She was the originator of mix-and-match separates, open-backed sundresses, and feminine denim fashion; she started the trend for ballet flats as a wartime leather-rationing measure. Spaghetti straps, brass hooks and eyes as fasteners, rivets, menswear details and fabrics: they were all started by McCardell. Her Monastic and Pop-over dresses achieved cult status, and her fashions were taken up by working women, the suburban set, and high society alike.
“The testament to great design, Claire McCardell’s dresses look fresh, contemporary, and desirable eight decades after they were made, as the Costume Institute’s 2022 exhibit In America: An Anthology of Fashion demonstrated.” —Nicole Phelps, global director, Vogue Runway and Vogue Business
“Among the many surprises and insights I discovered in McCardell’s valuable book is that she wanted to call it Fashion is Fun. That may also be the secret behind her genius and enduring influence—she refused to take fashion too seriously.” —Cathy Horyn, New York Magazine “Claire
McCardell’s guiding philosophy of dressing with ease in afunctional, fashionable American look was groundbreaking—and feminist—for her times. And it continues to resonate globally on the runways and in closets today.” —Booth Moore, executive editor, Women’s Wear Daily
Claire McCardell (1905–1958) was an American fashion designer. In 1990, Life magazine named her one of the 100 most important Americans of the twentieth century, and in 1955, she was on the cover of Time magazine. She attended Parsons School of Design in New York and studied in Paris. As head designer of Townley Frocks, she was one of the first American designers to have name recognition. She was the recipient of two Coty Awards and won the first American Sportswear Designs Award from Sports Illustrated magazine. Her work is in museums across the country and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Smithsonian and the Fashion Institute of Technology.