Tribute to an icon: Frederick Art Club unveils statue of fashion pioneer Claire McCardell | Culture


Even as a cool autumn breeze shook the leaves of the green trees on Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of people gathered on the alley outside the Idiom Brewery.

Since there were far too many for everyone to claim a seat on one of the white folding chairs set up by the edge of Carroll Creek, many perched on brick walls or stood, craning their necks to see the small lectern placed. in front of the crowd.

They were there to celebrate the culmination of more than two years of hard work by sculptor Frederick Sarah Hempel Irani and a team of women led by the Frederick Art Club. (Not to mention a 3-day, 1,680-mile drive from a smelter in Loveland, Colo. To Carroll Creek Linear Park in downtown Frederick.)

Just before 3 p.m., two young women removed a light brown quilted sheet to reveal the larger-than-life bronze cast of Frederick-born fashion icon Claire McCardell.

“All I could say today is wow,” said Marilyn Bagel, president of the Frederick Art Club. “I just want to point out that I have handkerchiefs with me because it just might happen.”

When the art club approached Hempel Irani three years ago to create a monument in honor of McCardell – a pioneering designer known for inventing American sportswear and bringing pockets, ballet flats and hoodies to the women of the country – he had not yet raised funds for the project.

Still, Hempel Irani recalled on Sunday how thrilled she was with the organization’s proposal and the chance to join the effort to “break the bronze ceiling”.

There are more than 50,000 statues of historical figures in the United States, Hempel Irani told the crowd, but less than 7% are women.

“Frederick is a place where history is made, and today we do it again by honoring a woman who changed the way women dress,” she said.

Frederick could certainly use more statues of women in his public spaces, County Frederick Jan Gardner said in his remarks Sunday. The McCardell monument, she noted, is the first.

“It’s time we put a woman on a pedestal,” she proclaimed, erupting the audience into applause and cheers.

Born just north of Carroll Creek in Frederick’s Rockwell Terrace neighborhood in 1905, McCardell grew up climbing trees, playing sports, and deconstructing the much less restrictive clothing her brother wore to create more comfortable clothes for her- same. She spent two years studying home economics at Hood College before her father gave in and allowed her to attend what would later become the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

It didn’t take long for her to establish herself in the fashion industry. Known for her emphasis on comfort and style, McCardell designed clothing with alternative materials such as denim, calico, and wool jersey during the fabric shortages created by WWII and relocated zippers. from the back to the sides of the garments to make it easier for women to dress. themselves.

According to a sign that now stands near her monument along Carroll Creek, McCardell was one of the few women in the industry to have her name on a label when she died in 1958 from breast cancer. colon. She is now buried in her family lot at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.

Big fan of “Project Runway”, the mayor of Frederick Michael O’Connor remembers seeing an episode where a contestant credited McCardell as the inspiration for this competition.

“It’s a source of pride to know that while this candidate may not have known that Claire McCardell was from Frederick, I did,” he said, making the crowd laugh. “I knew they were talking about Frederick, and that meant a lot.”

To sculpt the fashion designer, Hempel Irani used a photo she found in the Hood College archives as a reference. At 7.5 feet tall and 860 pounds, the bronze likeness of McCardell poses in an outfit that included ballet flats, a button-down top, a skirt with side snaps, and – of course – pockets. Her eyes narrow into a smile as she leans against a mannequin’s chest.

On Sunday, Hempel Irani – also wearing a dress with pockets – said she felt she needed to know McCardell’s personality in order to be able to capture her in sculpture. The fashion designer was introverted, independent, confident – but never haughty – and committed to the job she was called to do, Hempel Irani told the audience. She was a “real role model” for herself and for so many other young women.

“And what’s more,” continued Hempel Irani, his voice broken with emotion, “I got to know a group of women who demonstrated the power of collaboration and commitment… They believed in. I believed in them, and we all believed in this community. And we did it! We did it together.

The sculptor then invited the gathered crowd to cross the creek to meet McCardell. This is exactly what they did, the wind rustling their hair as they examined the statue and took pictures with their cell phones. On the roughly hewn stone at the woman’s feet read an inscription: “The designer who changed the way women dress.”

During the celebration, Gardner told the crowd she often says women get things done. McCardell is one example, she said, but the women who made her monument possible – from Hempel Irani to Sharon Poole, who created the garden that houses the statue, and Irene Kirilloff, who made the signage for the site.

“This statue will be as much a part of your legacy as that of Claire,” she said.

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @ 24_angier.


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