Claire McCardell

by Erin on May 31, 2005

McCalls 4292
This is the only Claire McCardell pattern I own; I'm almost afraid to sew with it. What if I did something thoroughly boneheaded, like cut through it? It's been known to happen. Also, I'm waiting for the perfect fabric to present itself. I would like to think that I could pull off red shantung, as in the illustration, but that would be just fooling myself, sadly.

Claire McCardell was a pioneering American sportswear designer who made gorgeous and practical clothes women could actually move in. (Check it out — this dress has pockets!) She's practically my hero. Someday I will own a copy of her What Shall I Wear? but not while it's topping $150 at Alibris …

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous May 31, 2005 at 8:57 am

Hon, don’t use the original pattern! Trace it! I trace *all* my patterns. Never use the original. In fact, if you’re willing, you can send it to me and I’ll trace us both copies. =DLydia


Erin May 31, 2005 at 9:09 am

I’m so lazy and impatient, I never trace my patterns. But I might just take you up on your offer! In a couple weeks, when I’m done traveling for a while?


La BellaDonna May 31, 2005 at 11:17 am

Sassybelle? Is that you? (In the event you are not, I’m not insane, I was just … thinking of someone else.)In addition to having your pattern traced, may I respectfully suggest you (carefully) press the pieces flat with a dry iron, then fuse them to iron-on interfacing, which will help stabilize the pattern, and keep it from crumbling into oblivion. Yes, it means it’s no longer in mint condition; it means it’s also less likely to disintegrate. You can also go onto ebay and see if you can scrounge up the Folkwear Claire McCardle pattern, which has been discontinued, but may still be available.(La BellaDonna found you via The Manolo. Sassy, if it’s you, this is Stitchin’ Witch!


Anonymous May 31, 2005 at 12:57 pm

You’re on. I’m going on vacation mid-month, myself, so perhaps sometime in July? I’ll email you with my info.–Lydia


Louise May 31, 2005 at 1:06 pm

That dress is gorgeous. I hope you find the right fabric, I’d love to see it finished.Louisep.s. Thank you soooo much for the email and dress suggestions. I will email you again when I have a chance.


enigmania May 31, 2005 at 2:42 pm

Oh! that’s beautiful. I crave the pattern.


Mary May 31, 2005 at 3:54 pm

I’ll second the suggestion to trace the original pattern onto a durable material. sells “Sewable Swedish Tracing Paper.” This paper resembles a lightweight interfacing and it’s now on sale!! MaryBTW – Stunning dress! Thanks for sharing!


Miachelle June 3, 2005 at 6:36 pm

These are the kinds of dresses I love!!! And they’d go well with my jewelry! 😉


Gigi May 30, 2006 at 2:58 pm

If only you knew just how envious I am of you! I’ve been looking for a Claire McCardell pattern for *ages*. Sniff.


Marji September 19, 2006 at 9:57 am

That is fabulous! Have you made anything with it yet?if not, get with it girl – that’s kind of like keeping the silver in a chest in the dining room and never using it….


Susan December 2, 2006 at 8:03 am

That is a gorgeous dress; the red shantung sounds wonderful (but I’m biased – most of my dresses are red!)


Jen January 17, 2007 at 12:23 am

Hi,I am finding this beautiful pattern by Claire McCardell a bit late in the game (Jan.07), but what led me here is a Butterick pattern for sale, style # 4919, that seemed soooo familiar that I did a search for Claire McCardell dresses, and your pattern here came up. There is a strong resemblance between these two patterns (but the Butterick is new, and for sale).Question: would it be possible to show the BACK side of this pattern envelope, and maybe the drafts of the dress as drawn on the inside directions? With that info, I think I could try making my own version (sigh)thank you,Jennifer


Erin January 17, 2007 at 10:02 am

Jennifer — wish I could scan & post, but I’ve lent this pattern to someone and I don’t have it in hand now!4919 is also discussed here: luck!


Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 6:48 pm

oh.. I have two or three of the mccardell cloister dress patterns somewhere… bought them years ago and have found them to be very versatile on stage


Lefaune May 8, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Ilove everything she did… Do you know a place or a website where I can buy them… ? For the fabric -if you didn’t already made this dress- I would advise you some nave floral pattern, for the short sleeved version. Something very fresh with tiny “semis” flower print. I love the one that Algerian or Moroccan women use to make their blouses and dresses. Would give something very french forties countryside girl. get some cork plateform heels to go with it !


Anonymous August 1, 2007 at 8:48 pm

just browsing through old posts — the book you mentioned has dropped to $98 on Amazon…


Karla November 12, 2007 at 8:24 am

was googling Claire and came across your blog, but I am a regular reader so was pleased to see you are a Claire fan.I have two copies of the book, one a signed first edition and one without dust jacket. I also own (my prized posession) an original Claire McCardell for Townley dress…red cotton plaid, long gathered skirt, fitted bodice with brass hooks. It’s amazing and fits like a dream (and I’m a size 42!). Of course, all my Claire things are also among the most expensive things I’ve ever bought, but I am so glad I have them. You should totally make that dress.


michellebeth June 23, 2009 at 11:13 am

Claire McCardells wonderful book from 1956, What Shall I Wear? is due to be reprinted in September 2009. Pre-order your copy from; you will love it!


Anonymous February 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Is anyone looking for a real Claire M dress? They are out there in vintage clothing stores and can be purchased and copied. I own two.


weezieduzzit June 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Just came across this post while browsing- this pattern is reproduced and available through Its available in two size ranges, 32 to 42″ bust and 40 to 50″ bustn and it’s only $20. I’ve been pleased with all of the reproduction patterns I’ve purchased from her.


Nadia Lewis January 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Erin, please tell me that you have made this dress in the seven years since posting this.


Erin January 9, 2012 at 8:30 am

I did! Here’s the link:

It was not hugely successful, but I may try again soon …


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: