Of Another Fashion

An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color

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This family portrait was taken in 1900 in Gainesville, Florida. It’s part of a collection at the State Library and Archives of Florida.

It’s 1956 in San Francisco and this is my grandmother, Encar Villanueva. She’s standing next my grandfather’s cadillac. Today, my grandmother or lola (in Tagalog) lives in a nursing home in San Francisco in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. But when this photo was taken, her personality was very strong. Because she was the eldest of her sisters and a stay-at-home mother raising two boys, she definitely was the disciplinarian in the home. (My grandpa was often overseas working as a cook for the US Navy).  Although Lola was opinionated and religious, she always knew how to have a good time and throw a great party. She often had her friends over for food, dancing, and praying the rosary - like any good Filipino Catholic.

Her style was always on-trend. In all her pictures with her girlfriends, church friends, relatives, grandma Encar always stood out. She was never scared of wearing bright colors and accessorizing her outfits with jewelry, bright purses or shoes. As a child I remember going through closets (seven closets to be exact) of her clothes, jewelry, shoes, coats and purses. I still have a number of things of hers to this day. She had impeccable style.

In 2011, I wrote a play about my grandmother and have performed it several times as a one woman show called Forgetting the Details.

Submitted by Nicole Maxali (San Francisco, CA)

Mexican American bridesmaids on car in `the flats’, 1938.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is a photo of my lovely great-aunt, Helen Seate Cooke. It’s hard to tell when it was taken - she looks young, but she always looked young. :) The flowers in her hair and smile make her seem all the more adorable and youthful. I think this photo was taken in Nottoway County, Virginia, where she spent time teaching. This is my favorite photo of her.

Submitted by Benae Mosby (Washington, D.C.)

In 1966, after studying at the University of Hawaii for two years, my mom Sumiko Carroll (née Namihira) went back to Tokyo, intending to enroll in a Japanese university. However, soon after returning home, she read a 2-line ad in the Japan Times (an English language newspaper), seeking flight attendants for Northwest Orient Airlines. Mom says, “I didn’t think I would get the job. I went mostly because I wanted to see who else would show up, but when I got there with my resumé, I was the only one there!” What followed were 5 days of tests, a different subject for each day, including English and math. “On the last day was an interview for the three of us who passed. We were told to pack and prepare to fly to Minnesota in two weeks for training.

After working for Northwest Orient for a year, Mom was hired by Pan American World Airways. Pan Am intended to compete with Japan Airlines carrying an ever-increasing number of Japanese travelers. The hiring was done in Tokyo, although Mom was based in Honolulu. She says the Asian flight attendants of Northwest Airlines worked the Asian routes only but Pan Am opened up the world to them. Mom says when she read “Northwest is hiring stewardesses. Bring resume,” she was under the height requirement, over the weight limit, and so plain! That was back when they hired the most beautiful girls, just gorgeous, most of them looked like models. But I was fluent in both English and Japanese, and that’s why they hired me.” Personally, I think they also hired her because Mom had a reputation for working hard - her nickname was “Little Tiger.”

Mom is seated in the center. From left to right, the other women are Motoko Hanyū, Hisako Kobayashi, Kyoko Ōtake, and Miyako Kuroda.

Today, my mom is a member of World Wings International. She also contributed a photo and a memory written on a 3”x5” index card to the Airborne Dreams exhibit, and recently read Christine Yano’s book of the same name. 

Submitted by MK Carroll (Honolulu, HI).

Click here and here for more photos from Airborne Dreams.

This is my grandmother Dominga Villegas in Nebraska. There are some other pictures of her and my grandfather picking potatoes in that field behind her. I am assuming this is either prior to or after harvesting some potatoes. I admire her confidence and the bad ass look in her eye in this picture. She is an amazing woman.

Submitted by Dagny Villegas (Indianapolis, IN).

This is a picture of my grandmother, Sachiko Hamilton (R)at age 15 and her cousin. It was taken in Japan in July 1944. Several years later, she would meet her first husband, Ernest Ford, Sr. (an African American man), at an army base in Japan. They married soon after and she immigrated to Detroit where she was a seamstress. She worked for Chrysler for 30 years sewing automobile seats together. 

I’m assuming the stamp on the picture above is the name of the photographer. She made the dress that she was wearing - most of the clothing that she made had patterns on them.

Submitted by Chanel Hamilton (Ann Arbor, MI)

This is my great grandmother, Maria Luisa Merchan Gracia, at age 40 in Venezuela in the late 1930s. 

Submitted by CJ (Chicago, IL).

In the 1930s, Dorothea Lange took a large series of photographs of migrant workers throughout the U.S. including in California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. The most famous of these images is “Migrant Mother”. 

The above photo portrays migrant mothers as well. These Mexican women were photographed on the U.S.-Mexico border in California.  

Source: LIbrary of Congress

Submitted by Corianne Wilson (Orem, UT).

These two Asian American dancers are performing at San Francisco’s premiere nightclub in the 1930s called Forbidden City. While the club was Chinese-themed, the performers themselves were not all Chinese American. Some were Japanese American and Filipino American. (Click the “Forbidden City” tag at the bottom to see more.)

Less than a decade after this photo was taken, all of the Japanese American performers would be interned under Executive Order 9066. To see more internment photos, click on the “1940s” tag or the “Japanese American” tag - note: internment images will include both these tags. 

Source: Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library, University of California

Lisa Wong Macabasco of Hyphen Magazine just posted this interview with me as a follow-up to their recent feature story about OF ANOTHER FASHION. The interview took place about a year or so ago but it gives some interesting background on OF ANOTHER FASHION. 


And please, dear readers, support this amazing independent Asian American arts, culture, and politics magazine. (You can start by buying the current issue - The Survival Issue - which has the 2-page spread on OF ANOTHER FASHION!)

"Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down."
- Rookie magazine writer, Jenny Zhang, quotes activist Dorothy Height in her latest piece on the political and historical significance of fashion. Zhang cites OF ANOTHER FASHION as her inspiration!

I’m so excited to announce that a feature story on OF ANOTHER FASHION is in the current issue of Hyphen Magazine, the premier Asian American arts, culture, and politics magazine. It should be on newsstands soon, probably at independent bookstores. Or, you can buy a copy from their website

I just got an email with this link in which they preview the story. I’m really pleased that they chose the photo of my mom as a lead-in to the preview - it’s one of my favorite photos of her and really exemplifies, in many ways, where OF ANOTHER FASHION began:
my mom’s style-y ways!

Please support this independent magazine - and also, some contributors may find that their amazing photos and stories have also been featured! In the last year or so of OF ANOTHER FASHION’s existence, I’ve had many moments in which I’ve thought: I can’t believe this has gotten so big! This is another moment and I’m so grateful.

This fabulous woman is my paternal grandmother, Minerva Turner (1924- 1992). She owned her own hair salon/”wig clinic” in Chicago in the ’60s, and this hair piece is one of her many amazing creations. I’m pretty sure she made the coat as well. She was fiercely Independent - much to the dismay of two of her husbands, both of whom wound up divorcing her and taking the kids. My mother told me that my father, also deceased, told her that it was because they wanted a wife that would stay at home, but she refused to give up her dream of being a self-supporting business owner. He followed in her footsteps and became a hairstylist. I’ve also been told that on a major shopping trip to New York after her business took off, she was denied entry into the high-end shops because they didn’t “serve her kind.” She had a hard life, but she never gave up on her dream, her style, or her hard partying ways. I am so incredibly proud of her.

Submitted by Ariel Wolf (New York, NY)

These are my grandparents, Roberto and Dominga Villegas. My grandfather is in uniform; he fought in World War II. I adore my grandmother’s dress in this photo and wish that I had some more information regarding it.

From Roberto Villegas, Jr. (Dagny’s father): The picture was taken on January 31, 1944. It was taken in a photo shop on Main Street in Weslaco, Texas across from the church where they were married. They walked across the street after the ceremony. Dad was on leave from the Army and my grandmother, Mamma Piedad took Mom and Dad to San Juan de Arc Catholic Church on Main Street on that day to get married. This is their wedding photo. The dress was purchased at Valdez Clothing Store on Main Street in Weslaco. Valdez was a small local store. This means that he was 17 and she was 16 when the picture was taken. Three years later on January 25, 1947, I was born. 

Submitted by Dagny Villegas (Indianapolis, IN)