Woman's dress in two parts

Designed by Claire McCardell (American, 1905-1958), For Townley


Center back (dress): 114.3 cm (45 in.) Center back (jacket): 33 cm (13 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Rayon faille

Not On View


Americas, Contemporary Art, Textiles and Fashion Arts



Sleeveless dress in two shades of yellow (half darker, half lighter), gathers to ties at neck, deep V neckline; falls in classical pleats at waist, with long wrapping ties. Labeled: “Claire McCardell Clothes/ by Townley/ Fabric by Stonecutter.” Bolero jacket with short sleeves cut in one with bodice, no collar, in two tones of yellow (half lighter, half darker, opposite of dress), long ties at waist.

Claire McCardell was one of the most influential American designers of the 20th century, best known for her sportswear and for creating simple, comfortable clothes to suit the active lifestyle of modern women. She avoided heavy understructures and superfluous decoration, instead using creative and unconventional cut and draping to create elegant lines. She was particularly fond of wrapped and tied closures, finding them more practical than the traditional (and inconvenient) back buttons and zippers commonly used on dresses in the 1930s-50s. She often used very long “spaghetti string” ties to create a graceful pleated effect at the waist, as seen here. But the subtle and unusual two-tone color scheme (reversed in the bolero for balance) make this ensemble a particularly distinctive example of its type.


Purchased by dealer from a Long Island, New York estate sale. Purchased by the MFA from Naomi Gittler, through an internet auction, April 26, 2006.

Credit Line

Textile Curator's Fund