Monday, April 8, 2019

A Dress for Everyone

Fashion designer Claire McCardell and I share a hometown and an alma mater. Plus she is buried in the same cemetery as my father. From Stories in Stone:
Claire McCardell was born May 24th, 1905 in Frederick to Adrian Leroy and Eleanor "Ella" M. (Clingan) McCardell (originally from Jackson, Mississippi). She was the oldest in her family and had three brothers: Adrian, Robert and John. Mr. McCardell was a state senator and president of the Frederick County National Bank. His father, Adrian C. McCardell, was a native of Williamsport, MD and confectioner who was running a successful sweet shop on N. Market Street at the time of his granddaughter's birth. Claire's grandfather also had strong ties with Mount Olivet as he served as the cemetery's president from 1919 until his death in 1932.

Claire's family lived on Rockwell Terrace, the fine suburban neighborhood on the city's northwest side. From the age of five, Claire was interested in fashions, demonstrated by the clipping of paper dolls from many of her mother’s fashion magazines. By the time she was in her teens, Claire was dismantling her clothes, and those of her siblings in an effort to remake them herself.

 After graduating from Frederick High School in 1923, Claire attended Hood College for two years. In 1926, she left to study at the School of Fine and Applied Arts in New York City for three years. This institution eventually became known as the Parsons School of Design. The curriculum involved two semesters of study in Paris, which made quite an impression on the Marylander. She was accompanied by friend Mildred Boykin, a fellow student of Claire's who also had ambitions as a fashion designer. The two would be lifelong friends.

In late 1928, Claire finally obtained her first job as a fit model in the French Room at B. Altman’s department store in New York. In the 1930 census Claire can be found living with Mildred and her mother on E. 30th Street (near 5th Avenue) in  New York City. (Read more.)

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