Carolyn Schnurer (American, born New York, 1908–1998 Palm Beach, Florida)
Textile manufactured by S. Edwards (American)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Carolyn Schnurer, 1953
Not on view
During her twenty-year career in fashion, from 1944 to 1964, Carolyn Schnurer (1908-1998) was a pioneer in the newly emerging American sportswear industry. Directing her designs toward young active women, Schnurer developed playsuits, coordinates and dresses that were unfussy, required minimal foundation garments and could be worn for a variety of occasions. Particularly renowned for her culturally-inspired resort collections, rather than a blatantly costumed appearance, Schnurer's designs typically featured one or two understated thematic details in the cut or fabric, while maintaining a classic American silhouette.
This vibrantly patterned bathing suit from Schnurer's "Gold Coast Memos" was inspired by the West African kaba and slit, the formal two-piece woman's dress made up of a tailored blouse and ankle length skirt, which are typically made from bold graphic polychrome wax-printed cottons, known as Dutch wax print. While Schnurer was in the city of Accra, the capital of Ghana, she noticed that in addition to the blouse and skirt, women often wore, "a [third] shorter skirt length draped around the body of [the] same material … often used as a baby carrier." The draped cloth is mimicked here in the cummerbund-style tie sash.