A DISCOURSE ON DESIGNING FOR ONESELF.
Byline: Helen Wulbern, November 1940
She has never been to Palm Beach or California, yet she designs sportswear. And her idea of a really clever fashion creator is one who isn’t too extreme — though she herself constantly leaps a year or so ahead of the design trend and never hesitates to wear the most extreme costumes she has turned out. Stripes and unpressed pleats are her passion, the monastic dress her biggest success and Claire McCardell her name.
Many of you must have met her during her many years at Townley Frocks, or later at Hattie Carnegie’s, for she is not the girl in the back room, tucked in a corner drawing and draping all day long. She comes right out front and helps sell, because she thinks “you get comment from the buyer to guide you in making clothes salable.” Claire designs her collections for herself and says, with startling candor and no irony at all, that she thinks it is too bad that she does. She has to fight against it. Her subjective personality clothes sell best in the specialty stores, “where the salespeople can give more effort to selling,” but for department stores she tones them down.
Paris has contributed more to her design inspiration than any other factor. “Now,” she says, “I have enough Paris ideas to last six months, and after that, I have as good a chance as the rest of them,” for she believes that you can pull new themes out of innumerable hats or sleeves. “It might only be a cheap window display, but as you look at it, you think if they had only done this or changed that — and you go home and try it.”
But what will take the place of Paris, is the inevitable question finally put to this designer. Her answer is vehement: “No board of directors setting fashions here. They can’t be worked out that way. “