Claire McCardell and The American Look

One reason why the typical Mexican attire Frida so loved such as huipiles, rebozos, and ponchos continue to be used is because the designs are simple, practical and elegant.

Claire McCardell (1905-1958) was a designer who also took the Occam’s Razor approach to creating clothes in large part because of  the WWII imposed parsimony. Using limitation as a source of inspiration, Claire created designs meant to make the most out of a little. She used “alternative” fabrics such as denim and wool jersey and surplus government weather balloon cotton for her creations.  And the shortage of leather led to Claire’s making ballerina flats popular.

With the war, women had to assume a chores generally done by men as the men were busy being soldiers.   No longer objects but, instead, sheer animation, women needed clothing that was practical and easy to move in.  Claire may have been influenced, when studying in Paris, by Coco Channel’s desire to liberate women shackled by fashion.

Claire, often referred to as the High Priestess of the Understatement, said she designed things that she needed for herself but, it seemed, others needed, too.  She strove for simplicity and created mix ‘n match garments that could extend a wardrobe with the leitmotif of  functional and affordable.

 

Claire revolutionized American fashion via some of the following designs:

 

Monastic dress, a toga like gown with a belted waist (1938)

 

Diaper Bathing Suit (1942)

Claire McCardell's Diaper Bathingsuit

 

Popover Dress (1942) which was a wrap-around dress including an attached pot holder for those women who had guests for dinner and thus had to run back and forth from the kitchen.

Claire Mccardell, every hostess needs an oven mitt

 

A wrap dress was versatile in that it could be used as a house dress, party dress, dressing gown and even as a bathing suit cover up.

Claire McCardell, Popover Dress

For the Mayans, a huipil created a sacred enclosure for a woman’s body. And, when she entered her garment by pulling it over her head, the woman became the axis of her universe. Popover dresses also permit the woman to be the axis.

 

The Future Dress made from triangular pieces of fabric.

Claire McCardell, she cut a triangle and wore it

 

Shoulder Shrugs are easy to fold and easy to wear (1947)

Claire McCardell, shoulder shrug

 

Georgia O’Keefe owned a number of McCardell dresses.

claire 7 b

 

Claire collaborated with artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Milo, Leger using fabrics designed by them for her creations. For her  “Fish Dress”, she used Picasso’s ‘Fish Print’ fabric (1955).  Thus something designed by Picasso could be bought by the yard. The artist didn’t mind commercializing his art.  However, Picasso refused to have his designs used for upholstery fabric.  It was one thing to be worn but something totally unacceptable to have his art used for sofas thus be sat upon.

Claire McCardell and Picasso's Fish Print

 

Huipil dresses to make inspired by Claire include the halter top dress and the Grecian tunic dress.

Claire McCardell Style

Mal Oo

Bibliography:   McCardell, Claire. What Shall I Wear? . The Overlook Press.New York. 2012

 

Δώρο/gift Huipil dress

In Greek, “Δώρο” means “gift” and what better gift can nature give us than that of spring? And to celebrate spring, I made this huipil dress using a tulip filled  secondhand t-shirt for the bodice. The body of the dress is made from a piece of white cotton covered with drawings of a woman holding a flower.  She is just waiting for someone she can give it to.

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

Δώρο huipil dress

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Frida and Coatlicue

Many Mexican intellectuals including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera sustained Mexicanidad, the pro-native movement associated with the Mexican Revolution.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Alfredo Chavero (1841-1906) was a politically active Mexican archeologist who enthusiastically promoted the re-appropriation of Mexico’s indigenous past.  Chavero wrote extensively on Middle American Indians.  He was the first scholar to make reference to Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who wore a skirt made from serpents and a necklace made of hearts, hands, and a skull pendant. With such a surrealistic look, it’s no wonder that Frida fell in love with her and often used Coatlicue related motifs for her paintings. In her “Self-portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” (1940), Frida portrays herself wearing a necklace of thorns adorned by a dead hummingbird.  Dead hummingbirds were often used as charms to bring good luck in love.  The painting was made shortly after Frida’s divorce from Diego so, obviously, she was devastated and used her art to help her purge some sorrow.  Photographer Nickolaus Murray, friend and ex-lover, bought the painting from Frida knowing she needed the money.

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

I would like to make a huipil dress dedicated to Coatlicue.  It would have a bodice made of skull printed fabric and a skirt of snakes!

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

Frida Kahlo Wears Huipiles

 

Mal Oo

Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Korzekwa. All Rights Reserved
Bibliography:
Gaba, Xhensila. Frida Kahlo beyond the “painter of pain”:Kahlo’s artwork through the lenses of cultural and political identity. Retrieved 31/10/2016 https://www.academia.edu/3214913/Frida_Kahlo_beyond_the_painter_of_pain_Kahlo_s_artwork_through_the_lenses_of_cultural_and_political_identity
Helland, Janice. CULTURE, POLITICS, AND IDENTITY IN THE PAINTINGS OF FRIDA KAHLO. Retrieved from internet 31/10/2016 https://msu.edu/course/ha/240/fridakahlo.pdf

Marina and Frida

Marina van Koesveld is a magical thinker. With her thoughts she’s able to create new realities.  When Marina was younger, she’d dress as Frida (long before the craze) maybe because the two had much in common. Both  are painters.  And both are sensual with long dark hair and eyes that can perforate you like laser beams.

So last summer I asked Marina if she’d model some of my huipiles in a Frida-like way and, always eager to play, she contented me.

Here she is wearing the huipil dress One Drop Makes Many Ripples.  The dress is made from a second hand cloth that, maybe, was used as a towel.

One Drop Makes Many Ripples

“Flowing” in and out of the dress is a strand of pieced cloth. The fabric design reminded me of drops of water so I embroidered the phrase One Drop Makes Many Ripples around the collar.

The motion of everyday life creates ripples—one action produces other actions. Thus ripples connect us one to the other.  That’s why it’s important to be aware that our actions—be they physical or psychological—affect the lives of those around us.

Ripples are everywhere.

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