If haute couture is resolutely French, then sportswear is unwaveringly American. From functional outerwear to blue jeans to day dresses, sportswear is made to move, and at its best, exhibits a vigorous American attitude. Much of what we consider sportswear today was initially designed for a specific work environment (like the aforementioned blue jeans for mining and gold panning), but Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin were the first to codify these elements into a cohesive body of work.

Like many other American designers who followed in their footsteps, design contemporaries Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin built up their careers working for manufacturers on New York’s famous 7th Avenue. In the spirit of American design, the pair’s greatest accomplishments included keeping the women they dressed (and the lives they led) at the forefront of their minds. The arc of each designer’s career depicts how decades of marvelous innovation, agenda-setting design, and the invention of what some call “The American Look” still inspires countless references on catwalks everywhere.

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