Members of the Frederick Art Club have an idea for a new statue in downtown Frederick. Build one for renowned fashion designer Claire McCardell.
And we agree.
In a sea primarily made up of prominent men from the past, non-specific symbols and a menagerie of animals, a bronze likeness of McCardell, credited as, among other things, the inventor of ballet flats, is a welcome change for the city of Frederick.
The recognition is long overdue. McCardell lived in a time when women’s accomplishments were often overlooked.
Art club members have proposed plans to build a bronze statue of McCardell, who lived from 1905 to 1958 and spent much of her life in Frederick, along Carroll Creek. And we are certainly on board.
While other women exist within the city’s 13-figure statuary, as we documented in our recent 72 Hours story “Planned statue of renowned Frederick designer could be one of the city’s first female public sculptures,” none of them carry the same prominence as McCardell.
McCardell’s accomplishments span a wide range, from not only inventing ballet flats and sewing pockets in dresses, but also popularizing fabrics including jersey and cotton, and inventing the Monastic dress.
Any woman who has built a capsule wardrobe or tied a drawstring waist or depended on the same sturdy cotton work dress to wear daily owes a debt of gratitude to McCardell.
On Tuesday, the art club received approval from the city’s Public Art Commission to erect the statue along Carroll Creek, the first of several approvals needed to make it happen. The proposal goes next to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and will eventually go before the Board of Aldermen for final approval.
An art club news release said McCardell’s designs “uniquely defined decades of fashion and continue to influence and inspire the industry today.” And in her life, she received numerous honors, including the Coty American Fashion Critics Award. She’s been on the cover of Time magazine and was named one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine. Her work is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Maryland Historical Society and Heritage Frederick.
That’s a pretty impressive legacy.
But what was surprising to us was that McCardell is not well-known in her hometown. No one exactly knows why, but we agree that it needs to change.
Future generations should know about McCardell, and a bronze statue in a prominent downtown location is a fitting way to make that happen. Not only because she is a woman, but because she is deserving.
We see no reason why McCardell should not stand (figuratively) alongside Francis Scott Key, John Hanson (and his wife, Jane) and Roger Brooke Taney. Not to mention the barrage of animals commemorated as statues, like Charity the Dog, who stands at attention outside the Federated Charities building on South Market Street, and Becky the Calf, displayed in a grassy knoll along North Bentz Street.
As the plans move through the government ranks, the art club has launched a $209,000 fundraising campaign to pay for the statue, with hopes to unveil it in 2021.
It’s time we honor McCardell, a woman who became famous in a male-dominated era. We hope the art club gets the approvals and funding it needs to make it happen.