McCardell Fashions Donated to Culture Center

Custodian With a dry mop in a hallway

McCardell Fashions Donated to Culture Center

After making their way out of Marlene Young’s guest bedroom closet to be shared as part of a local effort to erect a statue of Frederick native Claire McCardell, many of the design icon’s fashions will now belong to the Maryland Center for History and Culture in Baltimore, thanks to Young’s donation.

“I’ve been collecting her fashions for decades,” says Young. “When I was growing up, I was aware that she had been on the cover of Time magazine, and I remembered that this was a girl from Frederick who had achieved international fame. I always had a desire to own one of her creations, and when I was 18, I saved and saved my money and bought a skirt, praying that it would still be there when I saved the money. … But I never wore it because I didn’t want to take the tag off.”

For the next four decades, Young says she “was always looking” to add to her collection. “I would pick them up at auctions and later on I went online.” Many of the treasures she found included McCardell’s trademark shirtwaist dresses featuring side pockets that were widely appreciated by women. A particular favorite for Young is a sleeveless white dress decorated with embroidered red anchors and round wooden buttons on the side. “All the finishings on her clothes were elegant, yet functional and fashionable,” Young says. 

In addition to the dresses and a pair of red palazzo pants, she also acquired two pairs of leather gloves, a pair of the designer’s sunglasses and a pair of white baby shoes, styled like loafers. Some items are in the original packaging. 

Her collection first saw the light of day when the Frederick Art Club began a project in the fall of 2018 to erect a statue of McCardell on the east end of Carroll Creek Park. When club members came to her office at the Delaplaine Foundation, where she is president, Young says she told them, “I would love to be able to share the collection.” The clothes made the rounds at various fundraisers, sometimes worn by models. 

With the statue now in place, “I thought the time was right to pass along the collection,” Young says. “I consider it a joy and an honor to bring my personal collection of Claire McCardell fashions from the darkness of my closets into the public light of Maryland Center for History and Culture, Maryland’s oldest and premier cultural institution dating to 1844, where they can be better appreciated by more people and be added to the extensive McCardell archives already held in residence there.”  

Frederick Magazine