Mary McFadden: Goddesses

Mar 20 to Aug 30, 2009

NMWA presents the works of internationally renowned fashion designer Mary McFadden. In recognition of McFadden’s original contributions to the design field and distinguished career, Moore College of Art & Design has organized a special exhibition that juxtaposes gowns and clothing ensembles with a selection of historic textiles and jewelry drawn from McFadden’s own collection assembled during her extensive world travels.

Frequently referred to as a “design archeologist,” McFadden’s distinctive garments reflect an avid study of ancient and ethnic cultures weaving the art of ancient Near Eastern, African, Classical Greek, Javanese, Pre-Columbian, Dynastic Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures into her fabrics.

“My inspiration comes from ancient civilizations of the world,” says McFadden. “I have adapted symbols and religious signs from many civilizations for my decorative fabric designs. Bits of heraldry, calligraphic ornamentation, stylized leaves and clouds, mythical animals, and mosaics are ever present in my textiles and embroideries.”

With an artist’s sensitivity to color, harmony, and proportion, McFadden builds from a foundation of pure, timeless silhouettes and luxurious fabrics to which she adds exotic details and decorations. Many of her designs feature her own signature fabric, “Marii,” a pleated polyester fabric, which she created in 1975. Designed to “fall like liquid gold,” the fabrics cling to the body in animated folds while revealing the contours of the form beneath. McFadden is also known for her exquisite hand-painted quilted jackets and use of the traditional Indian Zardozi embroidery technique that was once used to embellish the attire of the Kings and the royals in India.

A woman with a light skin tone and black hair in a bun stands before a mannequin wearing a black gown with gold lace.

Mary McFadden at Mary McFadden: Goddesses Member Day, 2009; Photo by NMWA

Exhibition Sponsors

Mary McFadden: Goddesses was organized by The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. The presentation of the exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is generously supported by an anonymous donor, the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), and the Members of NMWA. Additional in-kind support is provided by the Willard InterContinental.