Skip to main content

Claire McCardell clothing samples collection

 Collection — Box: OSxxx-1
Identifier: KA-0125-01


This collection consists of one iridescent red dress and one light blue and white houndstooth shirt, both designed by Claire McCardell (1905-1958).


  • before 1950
  • circa 1955



1.6 Cubic Feet (1 oversize box)

Scope and Content of Collection

Patricia Hale Tyson (Mrs. C. J. Tyson, Jr.) purchased the red dress in the collection at the Townley Frocks warehouse in 1950, when it had become a remainder (unsold) from the previous season. The donor altered the dress to loosen it by undoing the attachment at the bottom of the back.

Tyson once worked at the New York Dress Institute, where garments were photographed for publicity purposes. It was in this capacity that she learned of the McCardell dress being sold.

Mrs. C. Rosenthal of New York City purchased the light blue and white houndstooth shirt from De Pinna department store (presumably the Fifth Avenue flagship store) in approximately 1955. Accession notes indicate that the shirt is notable for being designed to lie flat while ironing.

Kellen Design Archives staff brought together the shirt with the red dress to form a collection with a large number of McCardell's sketches donated to Parsons School of Design in 1967.

Due to the different provenances of the garments from the sketches, the current Archives staff separated the garments from the sketches in 2008 to form the present collection. The New School Archives and Special Collections, successor office to the Kellen Design Archives, does not collect garments and will not be adding to this collection.

Language of Materials

Garment labels in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

Claire McCardell was born in Frederick, Maryland in 1905 and attended the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (today, Parsons School of Design) from 1925 to 1928. With a certificate in Costume Design, McCardell joined the team of New York fashion designer Robert Turk. After Turk met a sudden death, McCardell became head designer for Townley Frocks. Closed for business in 1938 or 1939, Townley Frocks would re-open its doors in 1940 and offer McCardell her own label, “Claire McCardell Clothes by Townley.” Adolph Klein, the owner of Townley Frocks, made her a partner of the firm in 1952.

McCardell returned to Parsons in 1944 as a critic and lecturer. That same year, she was honored with the first of her two Winnies, the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards. In 1945, Lord & Taylor picked up McCardell's collection for Townley, and in 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman presented McCardell with the Women’s National Press Club Award. McCardell exhibited her work at the Frank Perls Gallery of Beverly Hills in 1953, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in May 1955.

Claire McCardell died from cancer at the age of 52 in 1958. Her friend and former Parsons classmate Mildred Orrick (1906-1994) stepped in to finish McCardell's line at Townley Frocks. The firm closed in 1976.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Dress donated to the Kellen Design Archives, predecessor of The New School Archives, by Patricia Hale Tyson (Mrs. C.J. Tyson, Jr.), 1995. Shirt donated to the Kellen Design Archives by Mrs. C. Rosenthal, 1996.

Related Materials

The New School Archives's Claire McCardell fashion sketches collection (KA.0082) consists of almost thirty years of McCardell's fashion sketches, primarily for Townley Frocks.

Guide to the Claire McCardell clothing samples collection
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
January 12, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description