“I want them to feel empowered, sexy and romantic—also, I definitely think, unencumbered.” This is how designer Tory Burch defined the women who wear her clothes, backstage at her eponymous label’s Spring/Summer ‘23 runway show at New York’s Pier 76. The word “unencumbered” was telling—it’s a term largely associated with Claire MccArdell, the designer credited as the creator of American sportswear. MccArdell rose to prominence in the 1930s and 40s, when her namesake label began producing wool jersey shirting, cotton shirt dresses, and other “practical leisure” pieces. Prioritizing fabrics that could be easily taken “on and off”, MccArdell was fashioning a new uniform for style conscious women who didn’t want to be constrained by the era’s penchant for heavy wools, delicate silks, and constrictive tailoring. Her favourite way to describe the Claire MccArdell woman? Unencumbered.
Burch’s fascination with MccArdell is long and well-documented—she referenced the designer during last year’s Spring/Summer ’22 collection, and recently wrote the forward to a reissued coffee table book about the designer’s life. That book, What Shall I Wear? The What, Where, When, and How Much of Fashion, is filled to the brim with chic black and white images of 20th century women in white cotton midi dresses, linen separates, and one-piece swimsuits. There’s no doubt some of these images ended up on Burch’s moodboard for S/S ‘23. The MccArdell woman loved classic pieces, the kind that doesn’t tend to date, and that ethos was evident throughout this collection, which married sporty silhouettes with fashion forward details.
Breathable jersey fabrics were layered smartly: ruched mini skirts over flowy sheer maxi skirts, and capri leggings. These were paired with very sweet little slingbacks that evoked the kind of ‘fabulously thrown together’ eccentricity of Patricia Field’s costume design on Sex and the City. The colour palette was cool and fresh—mint greens and juicy oranges, lavenders and butter yellows—and the silhouettes had a decidedly ‘90s feel, from the slim-fitting blazer coats (eat your heart out Carolyn Bessette Kennedy), through to the midi skirts and straight-leg jeans. The collection was tight and concise, a 31-look collection, and the concept of “minimalism” was playing on Burch’s mind. “There is this concept of minimalism for the show, but I wanted rich minimalism that had more detail and structure to them,” Burch explained in a post-show interview with Vogue Singapore. “I just think women just want things that will last.”