While living in Africa, McFadden worked as a political writer for the Rand Daily Mail. Her early career landmarks in haute couture were as an assistant at Dior, and she has served as writer or editor for the American, Parisian, and South African editions of Vogue. Urged by others who loved the clothes she designed and wore, she began her own line.
Whether for clothing, jewelry, household furnishings, or knitwear, her immediately identifiable designs have always been marked by an active intelligence. Her pleated garments resembled those Mariano Fortuny had originated in Venice over a hundred years ago, but McFadden’s unique and patented manufacturing methods made them travel-proof. By bonding satin to polyester backing, her clothing could be hand-washed and emerge bandbox fresh, a boon to her jet-setting clients.
McFadden resides in New York, after having traveled or lived in countries around the world (and drawing inspiration from them for her exotic patterns). She continues to design, though she has abandoned haute couture as too demanding. She has married often (11 times), and recently attended the launch of her fourth ex-husband Kohle Yohannan’s biography of the late Valentina, a once-famous 20th-century designer.
McFadden came to Washington for the opening of an important exhibit of 40 of her sumptuous gowns, (through Aug. 30), at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, several of whose board members and supporters were at the dinner.
One NMWA benefactor with Hungarian roots, Mary Mochary, was on the committee for another groundbreaking exhibit, which opened the same day. “Picturing Progress: Hungarian Women Photographers 1900-1945” chronicles, (through July 5), in stunning photographs, how Hungarian women won their first opportunity to become professional artists during this period of social upheaval.
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