Evening dress

Design House: Hattie Carnegie, Inc. (American, 1918–1965)

Designer: Claire McCardell (American, 1905–1958)

Retailer: Hattie Carnegie, Inc. (American, 1918–1965)

Date: 1939

Culture: American

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Gift of Ruth Underhill, 1958

Accession Number: C.I.58.17.2


Only a magician with a quick twisting, snapping, enveloping legerdemain could make this McCardell dress. On the hanger, it is limp, amorphous, and trailing; on the body, it traces the voluptuous peregrination of a Madame Grès bodice, but not one that is fixed into position or held forever for the couture client. Rather, the McCardell is ready-to-wear and adaptable to a myriad of body types and proportions. The striped silk reinforces the curlicues and corkscrews of the bodice and accentuates the columnar skirt. The crisscrossed bodice is accomplished by two pieces of fabric, contingent on the body but with the effect of a perfectly contrived origami.