Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Ensemble, 2 Piece - click to enlarge

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Ensemble, 2 Piece

Catalogue number: CS*316474.008

Date: 1956

Maker: Townley

Designer: Claire McCardell


Yellow and black calico print on red ground; DRESS-center front opening from neck to hem closed with black buttons and black thread-worked buttonholes; sleeveless; side seams; bodice has raised waist and no darts; back bodice cut in one piece; foldover collar; double row of topstitching trims collar, armscye (armhole) and center front opening in bodice portion; skirt lightly gathered; belt topstitched to dress at back with long extensions (ties) for wrapping over upper portion of skirt on front and around waist; wide foldover hem; COAT-entirely lined with gold-colored cotton; center front opening, closed with black buttons and thread buttonholes in bodice portion and open in skirt portion; foldover collar; side seams; three-quarter-length dolman sleeves, with tuck at inner elbow for fitting; shoulder seams; double row of topstitching trims collar and center front bodice opening; lining hangs separate from skirt at hem.


The donor was also the person who wore this outfit; she lived in Washington, D.C. It was designed by Claire McCardell, one of the leading American fashion designers at the time. McCardell was known for her use of everyday fabrics and the way in which her clothing could be worn for a variety of events by changing the accessories. This particular outfit, made from a printed calico cotton, was featured in the fashion pages of Vogue magazine in the May 1, 1956, issue, where it is shown as "high fashion" for wearing to a more formal event. We have chosen to show it with casual accessories, as it might have been worn for daytime events. Exhibited in Smithsonian's America, Chiba, Japan, summer 1994.

Credit: Gift of Nancy Sevier Madden