Debra Scala Giokas has always dreamed of being a children’s author. Over the years, in addition to working as a marketing communications professional, she took workshops in the craft of picture book writing and read approximately 500 children’s book in one year. The Sayville librarians would load her arms up each week. That’s when she began to notice what was missing.
When Scala Giokas learned about Claire McCardell from a 2018 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knew she found her subject. McCardell is a legend in the industry but relatively unknown outside of it. A personal love of clothes coupled with a deep appreciation for American History and a girl willing to forge her own way, Scala Giokas knew she had finally found her subject. She went back to the library and read the designer’s autobiography, WHAT SHALL I WEAR, and as many articles as she could find.
Scala Giokas’ debut picture book CLAIRE: The little girl who climbed to the top and changed the way women dress, is a true accounting of McCardell’s incredible rise through the mid-1900’s fashion industry.
As a child, an adventurous McCardell longed for clothes that would give her the ease of movement she needed to do the things she wanted. She came away from those youthful experiences envisioning a world where couture would equate with comfort and convenience, and the gumption to see that vision through.
The illustrations, provided by talented artist Mary Ryan Reeves, and done in a vintage pen and ink aesthetic, lends an authentic feel to the period piece. The scenes from McCardell’s years in New York City are particularly striking. Reading CLAIRE empowers children to see that when faced with a problem, one only has to design their own solution. Scala Giokas’ natural warmth and enthusiasm shine in the pages of Claire straight through to the end, where you can find old-fashioned paper dolls to continue the adventure. Claire’s Closet, the companion coloring book, expands McCardell’s world and invites a whole new generation to fall in love with her timeless work.
Claire: The little girl who climbed to the top and changed the way women dresshits bookshelves May 24, in celebration of what would be Claire McCardell’s 116th birthday.