Writing Letters

Debra Scala Giokas

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Save the Date!

August 18, 2022
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
and Museum (virtually)
6:00 p.m. (CST)

October 11, 2022
Sayville Library
7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. (EST)
To celebrate Eleanor Roosevelt's Birthday

February 19, 2023
Bayport-Blue Point Library
2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. (EST)
To celebrate President's Day



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A celebration of 18 first ladies who, at one point in their lives, knitted, crocheted, embroidered, quilted, cross-stitched, or sewed. Their inspirational stories will encourage an appreciation of craft and creativity, patience and perseverance, sacrifice and service, and most of all, the role of the first lady in the history of the United States of America.
For readers 9 and up.

To order:



About the Author

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Debra Scala Giokas always loved to read and write. As a child, she wrote letters to family and friends and poems for special occasions.


In college she chose to focus her studies on literature. After she earned her B.A. in English from Stony Brook University, she began a career in marketing communications where she writes every day. She has been working in that field ever since.


Debra enjoys learning and writing about women in American History. She also loves clothes (and yarn!) almost as much as words.

She attended the Stony Brook Southampton Writer's Conference in 2017 and took a picture book workshop with Emma Walton Hamilton.

Then she joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and won the newsletter naming competition for the Long Island Chapter. 

She taught a marketing course at a local college as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for 6 years, and still mentors students at her alma mater.

Originally from Astoria, Queens, New York, Debra lives in the friendliest town on Long Island with her husband George and their dog, Zoe Ana who is a Maltese. George is a writer, too. His book, a young adult novel, is called NICKEL ICE.

Click here to contact Debra if you would like her to speak at your museum or library about her latest book: LADIES, FIRST.



 A professional member of the Crochet Guild of America,

Debra is a dollmaker. She was included in the June 2018 issue of Woman's Day's "Kindness Project" for creating a "doll that does good."You can see her crocheted dolls on etsy.


In the Press -- LADIES, FIRST

“Did you know that whenever Eleanor Roosevelt was sitting, she was knitting? And that Dolley Madison crocheted baby caps and served as a directress of an orphanage for girls? These are some of the stories that sent Debra Scala Giokas on a journey of finding out more." 

To read the full article



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"According to Scala Giokas, Lou Henry hoover could knit and cross-stotch. She was known for knitting baby blankets with a process called double-knitting, which creates reversible blankets." 

Joanne Salemink


"I was almost at my halfway mark when I was writing about Edith Roosevelt. She had once lived at Sagamore Hill, the Summer White House, only about 30 minutes away from my own home. I had only visited once, and that was when I was in the 5th grade. My memory, though very good, was fuzzy. I recalled Theodore’s animals mounted on the wall from his safaris, but Edith…..hmmmmmmm. Edith, I couldn’t remember her presence in the house. Perhaps it was because my focus was on the president. That’s what we learned when I was in elementary school. Not much attention was paid to the first ladies."

To read the full article


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The book dives into stories about 18 first ladies and focuses on ones who at one point in their lives knitted, crocheted, embroidered, quilted, cross-stitched or sewed. The book contains photos of the ladies’ work and tells stories that humanize these extraordinary women. 

Scala Giokas, who is an avid crocheter, said she first got the idea to write this book after learning that Ida McKinley crocheted 4,000 slippers in her lifetime. She was originally going to write a picture book on McKinley, but decided to highlight more first ladies and their work. 

To read the full article

Included in Ladies, First: Common Threads are images of needlework by the first ladies: a baby cap knitted by Dolley Madison, tumbling block pattern quilt sewn by Abigail Fillmore, and a needlepoint rug created by Barbara Bush, for example. The book’s plentiful historic and needlework images are not highly detailed, and the book is designed in muted tones, giving it an historic feel. However, you can easily read from the images of typewritten instructions on pages 74-75 from First Lady Edith Roosevelt for knitting a pair of men’s socks.

“I have come to appreciate each and every one of them,” Scala Giokas says when pressed to choose a favorite first lady. “But I must say that I am in awe of Eleanor Roosevelt for all that she accomplished in regard to humanitarianism. And then to find out that whenever she was sitting, she was knitting, was just amazing. She always wanted to have a purpose and to be of use.”

To read the full article

Jeannine Clegg


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In the Press -- CLAIRE

Her curiosity was piqued after seeing one of McCardell's monastic dresses on display. After reading articles about the designer and her autobiography, Scala Giokas determined it would be a great story for children and more. 

To read the full article

Rosemary Feitelberg

Debra Scala Giokas and Mary Ryan Reeves live hundreds of miles apart. They’ve never met. But after the pandemic forced them each into lockdown, they forged a close — if virtual — friendship, rooted in a shared admiration for a long-dead Frederick woman who forever changed the fashion industry.

To read the full article

Jillian Atelsek


Scala Giokas said the book -- her first -- illuminates the fashion icon's story and she promises it will empower little girls.

To read the full article

Brian Harmon


Mary Ryan Reeves, illustrator of “Claire: The Little Girl Who Climbed to the Top and Changed the Way Women Dress,” hosted a party at her home recently to celebrate both the book’s official publication and what would have been fashion designer Claire McCardell’s 116th birthday. Debra Scala Giokas authored the picture book.

To read the article

“Did you know that whenever Eleanor Roosevelt was sitting, she was knitting? And that Dolley Madison crocheted baby caps and served as a directress of an orphanage for girls? These are some of the stories that sent Debra Scala Giokas on a journey of finding out more." 

To read the full article



“I read her autobiography, What Shall I Wear (Simon and Schuster, 1956), and then read as many articles as I could find about her. I thought it would make an inspiring story for children, especially girls. Here is someone who wanted to play sports . . . but not in dresses. She solved her own problem with creativity.”

To read the full article

Jeannine Clegg


“What intrigued me was that Claire was ahead of her time,” Scala-Giokas said.

“She had three brothers; she played with them and wanted to wear comfortable clothes. So she made her own. In the high-fashion world, everyone knows her. Donna Karan, Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg all credit Claire; she influenced a lot of designers. In Maryland, they know her, but not many here.”

To read the full article

Linda Leuzzi


Debra sent me her manuscript, and I said, "Yes, let's give it a try." 

To read the full article


Debra Scala Giokas, a long-time member of PRPLI, is also a member of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. After many years of honing her craft, she has authored a children’s picture book on American Fashion Designer Claire McCardell.

To read the full article


“There was a 2018 New York Times article about the exhibition ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion in Catholic Imagination’ in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that included Claire McCardell and her monastic dress [an unstructured garment that could be self-styled with a belt or sash]. And that’s how it started,” she said. “I began really to research her....”

To read the full article

The scenes from McCardell’s years in New York City are particularly striking. Reading CLAIRE empowers 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.

To read the full article


What do Frederick and Sayville, N.Y. have in common? They both have residents who are celebrating Claire McCardell, the American designer who changed fashion forever for American women.

To read the full article

Today’s special guest is someone I met when we were both at Stony Brook University – Southampton writing conference in 2017. 

To read the blog

Laura Roettiger


If ballet flats and coordinated separates are your thing, thank Claire McCardell, the visionary designer who made it possible for women to dress that way in comfortable, stylish, affordable clothes. Utilizing large pockets, denim fabric, calico, corduroy, trousers and wrap dresses, her designs thrived, especially during the 1940s, when luxurious fabrics and clothing devices like zippers were hard to come by due to World War II rationing. 

To read the full article

Linda Leuzzi


"Honoring an icon: Frederick Art Club unveils statue of fashion trailblazer Claire McCardell"

To read the full article

Linda Leuzzi



Praise for CLAIRE


"Claire McCardell has been one of my greatest influencers as a designer. What a thrill to see her story so beautifully expressed through illustration and word. An inspiration to aspiring young designers for sure!"

-- Sarah Liller, Fashion Designer and Founder, Sarah Liller Designs


"This beautifully illustrated biographical book is highly recommended for young readers with an interest in fashion."

-- Sally Di Marco, Fashion Designer, Author and Educator


"This telling of Claire's story will inspire a whole new generation of artists and designers. Debra has truly captured the innovation and tenacity that Claire brought to all aspects of her fashion career, and reminds us to never let obstacles keep us from achieving our aspirations and dreams."

-- Kellye A. Greenwald '86, Director of Alumni and Constituent Engagement, Hood College


"What an imaginative tribute to a visionary force in fashion and a great inspiration to young people with dreams!"

-- Marilyn Bagel, President, The Frederick Art Club (see The Claire McCardell Project)


"Such a fabulous celebration of women's fashion...showing women of all ages that you don't need to sacrifice style for function!"

-- Melanie Lippman, Melanie Lippman Style Consulting

From a young artist enjoying CLAIRE'S CLOSET


Contact Debra at debrasg22@gmail.com

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