You might not expect to find the fashion history of women of color in a book about the early days of the NASA space program in the 1950s and 1960s written by an architecture professor. But if Of Another Fashion has taught us anything it’s that the fashion history of women of color pervades nearly every part of U.S. history and that - unfortunately - it has often been made invisible even when it has been absolutely central to the most spectacular (by that I mean, full of spectacles or hypervisible) historical moments.
Consider this image in Nicholas de Monchaux’s new book, Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press 2011). A young Black woman named Hazel Fellows is seen here sewing a part of a spacesuit like the one Neil Armstrong would wear to walk on the moon for the first time in 1969. The previously unseen but highly skilled labors of women of color - learned in part as a result of a complex set of both economic and social necessity as well as desire - are brought to critical and historical light in this amazing photograph. Such seamstresses (employed by Playtex, the company we now associate mostly with bras) are, as one person put it, “the unsung heroes of the early space program.”
Many thanks to Shane Landrum for cluing me to the above link!