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Maryland Native Who Revolutionized Women's Fashion Honored In New Exhibit

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A Frederick County native is credited with revolutionizing women's fashion and is known as the creator of the "American look." Claire McCardell continues to make a mark in the fashion world today.

McCardell helped revolutionalize women's fashion with her creations in the 1940s and 50s. The trailblazer's legacy in the fashion world continues to be celebrated today and inspire others.

In October, the Maryland Center for History and Culture will open a new exhibition dedicated to McCardell. The cultural institution houses her personal archives.

"Claire McCardell is absolutely ahead of her time," said Allison Tolman, Vice President of collections & interpretation at the Maryland Center for History and Culture. "There are so many things today that many people would take for granted. She was all about versatility in her design."

Though she wasn't a household name, McCardell became a groundbreaking maven of women's sportswear in the 1940s and '50s. Her "American look" boiled down to liveable clothes that women could wear and afford.

"[The exhibition] will highlight her role through the 1940s and '50s, and show how it had a lasting impact today," Tolman said. "It will also feature personal revelations through our archive here."

A common feature McCardell incorporated in her pieces: pockets.

"She made it functional and comfortable, yet fashionable," said Robyn Levy, who is the recipient of the Tory Burch Claire McCardell Fashion Fellowship. "She has really changed the way that American women as well as women of the world dress and act in their daily life"

Along with a fellowship with the institution, Tory Burch's new spring-summer collection is influenced heavily by McCardell. The designer spent time in Maryland in early 2021 reviewing the MCHC's archives.

"Getting to know her personally has definitely changed the way I see her clothing," Levy said. "It helps me to really appreciate the functionality of her pieces."

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