Claire McCardell was the daughter of Senator Adrian LeRoy McCardell and his wife Eleanore Clingan. She attended Hood College in her native Maryland and the Parsons School of Design in New York City and also studied in Paris. In 1943, she married Irving D. Harris. She was the founder of American "ready-to-wear" fashion and produced the first "separates," which quickly became hugely popular. Her casual, modern clothes were designed to give women more comfort and freedom of movement. She brought denim to the fashion forefront as a dress fabric, and created leotards, hooded coats, pedal pushers, and dirndl skirts. She won numerous awards for her work, including the Coty Award in 1943 and 1956, the American Fashion Critics Award, and the Neiman-Marcus Award for best international design. Her creations have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution and the Fashion Institute in New York as exemplars of the "American look" in women's fashion. She was the author of What Shall I Wear? (1956). She died of cancer at age 52.