4 American designers who changed fashion (for the better)

and helped to shape the American Look.

Fashion history is a fascinating topic! It gives insight into the cultural, social, and economic influences that shape the way people dress. It reveals changes in technology, aesthetics, and the role of fashion in society over time.
It’s hard to believe that the things we take for granted were actually innovations and bold concepts not too long ago.

Here are 4 American designers whose contributions changed fashion forever and helped shape American style.

Claire McCardell, thanks for the separates!

Claire McCardell, who worked in the 1930s and 1940s, is credited with creating American sportswear (1930s term for separates). Prior to McCardell’s designs, separates were primarily associated with sport and were not considered appropriate for everyday wear. McCardell changed that notion by creating separates that were both comfortable and stylish. She used inexpensive fabrics such as denim and calico, as well as simple, functional designs that were easy to mix and match. Thus, pioneering matching separates.
Claire McCardell’s sportswear designs played a significant role in shaping the perception that casual wear can be stylish. This idea had a lasting impact on American fashion and continues to influence it. In addition, her designs were a catalyst for the emergence of American ready-to-wear fashion, which became an important industry in the following decades.

Why is sportswear important for shaping American style?

In the early 20th century, while many fashion styles in America were heavily influenced by or directly borrowed from Parisian fashion, American sportswear emerged as a distinct and unique style that was developed and originated in the United States. This style, known as the American Look, represented a departure from the traditional European influence and became a defining feature of American fashion.

Bonnie Cashin. Zippers and layering!

Bonnie Cashin is an American fashion designer who worked in the 20th century and is known for her practical, functional, and comfortable designs. She was a significant influence in the development of the American Look and is credited with introducing the idea of “layering” (she also coined the term) into the fashion world. This led her to a rare feat in the fashion industry, winning both the Coty Award and Neiman Marcus Award.
Bonnie Cashin was especially known for her use of leather, suede and mohair in designs, as well as the use of zippers and snaps as closures, which were considered to be modern and revolutionary at the time.

Ralph Lauren. Polo and Preppy Style.

Ralph Lauren is one of the most iconic and successful American fashion designers of all time. He began his career in the 1960s and is famous for building a lifestyle brand based on his vision of American style. Ralph Lauren was one of the designers who popularized the preppy style in the 1970s, characterized by its Ivy League-inspired clothing and accessories, such as polo shirts, khaki pants and loafers.

Norman Norell. Mermaid dress 🧜‍

Norman Norell was an American fashion designer known for his clean, classic designs and high-quality construction. He is considered one of the most influential American fashion designers of the 20th century.
Norman Norell was one of the first American designers to use luxurious fabrics and elaborate construction techniques along with sequins, beads, and metallic fabrics. That helped him to become a leader in evening wear. He contributed to the luxurious side of the American look popularizing sequin-covered “mermaid gowns”.

Well, I guess a post on American style would be incomplete without a mention of Levi Strauss and one of the staples of American fashion, jeans. But this story is too famous to repeat, so I’ll leave it out for the time being.

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