FASHION: The American Look

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Fleeting Joy. While Claire McCardell goes her independent way, she has plenty of competition in the casual-clothing field, since the American Look has spawned a whole school of native designers.

Among the top are Clare Potter, whose sleek, ladylike clothes are done in dramatic colors, priced a notch above McCardell's; Tom Brigance, an exponent of fit and form, who "constructs" clothes with a feminine look for the small, rounded figure; Vera Maxwell, whose simple clothes have an English flavor; Tina Leser, who designs exotic play clothes, using foreign and art themes; Sydney Wragge, who uses color-coordinated silks, linens and tweeds, attains a classic, custom-made look in his sportswear; and Carolyn Schnurer, who does gay, colorful collections sometimes inspired by foreign travels.

All these designers are merely the vanguard of a fashion army that is still growing, and is only beginning to fill the American woman's demand for clothes for her casual way of life.

As U.S. women swarmed through the shops sampling all the wares last week, there came to each a moment of joy, when she knew that what she had found was just the thing. "It's cute—and it does something for me," burbled a wisp of a girl in Manhattan's Bonwit Teller as she twirled in a filmy summer cocktail dress.

But such joy would be fleeting. For in their designing rooms and factories all over the U.S. last week. Claire McCardell and all the other makers of the American Look were hard at work. They were doing their best to make sure that in a few months American women will furrow their brows and again be stuck with a great truth: "Here it is fall, and not a thing to wear."

* Last week the Federal Trade Commission brought suit, charging 51 Los Angeles manufacturers, 32 contractors and two labor unions with trying to control 20% of the sportswear market by illegal trade agreements. * Still a favorite McCardell trick. Instead of cutting material straight up and down, or straight across, with the threads, McCardell often cuts it diagonally. The bias cut wastes material, but it gives a dress more flexibility, makes it adapt to the shape of the body.

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