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date: 16 September 2019

McCardell, Clairelocked

(b Frederick, MD, May 24, 1905; d New York, March 22, 1958).
  • Amy Widmayer


(b Frederick, MD, May 24, 1905; d New York, March 22, 1958).

American fashion designer (see figs 1 and 2). Often referred to as the founder of democratic fashion, her revolutionary and stylish, yet simple, designs made her an undisputed leader in American ready-to-wear. She was named one of the 100 Most Important Americans by Life magazine in 1990.

The only girl of four children born to Maryland State Senator Adrian Leroy McCardell and his wife Eleanor, McCardell exhibited her flair for fashion at an early age. As a child she cut paper dolls out of her mother’s old fashion magazines, and when the family seamstress visited the house, McCardell observed her every stitch. During McCardell’s adolescence she began making her own clothes, sometimes inspired by the theatrical costumes she saw during performances at Washington’s National Theater.

At 18 she enrolled in Hood College in Frederick, MD, leaving after her second year to pursue fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design in New York City. While living in Manhattan, McCardell stayed at the Three Arts Club on West 85th Street, attending its frequent rummage sales for discarded couture garments that she could study, dissect, alter and wear. In ...

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