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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I previously dubbed Lucille Baldwin Brown the loveliest librarian ever. Vivian Gordon Harsh, the woman above, is proving that librarians are their own category of beautiful. Harsh was the first African American librarian to work at the Chicago Public Library. She began her career at the Chicago Public Library in 1924. She studied library science at Simmons College and the University of Chicago.

Credit: The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature is housed at the Chicago Public Library Woodson Regional Branch

Submitted by Terah Edun

Friends Concha Galindo, Henrietta Valencia and Fortunata Valencia, on a one day trip to Santa Barbara 1920.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Antonia Ordóñez on left and Guadalupe Juarez-Ordóñez, sitting on a half moon prop for novelty photos at the Santa Monica Pier. 1920 Their expressions suggest that this photo wasn’t their idea.

This fashion daredevil in white pants at a Los Angeles area beach is Jesusita (ca. 1926). That roller coaster in the background makes me think she’s at Venice Beach, just off the boardwalk.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is a portrait photograph of my great grandparents, Kakujiro and Uno Ishizaki taken in Los Angeles in the early 1920s. My mom thinks it was probably taken for their anniversary and that it was most likely sent back to Japan to either her parents or his parents.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

In many ways, this photo of the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wong, taken at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, California, is hardly noteworthy. We’ve all seen wedding photos like this one. However, that this wedding took place on June 1, 1920 is historically astonishing. In 1920, the U.S. was in the middle of the anti-Asian exclusion era that officially began in 1882 and ended in 1965. The exclusion of female Asian immigrants in 1875 with the Page Act makes this wedding photo all the more unlikely. It is clear from their fashionable attire (tuxedos and au courant tea-length dresses) that the Wongs had relative social and economic privilege compared to most other Chinese in the U.S. at the time.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This photograph of women curtseying comes from the scrapbook of Althea “Bee” Moore, who was an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa (then known as the State University of Iowa) from 1924 to 1928. The scrapbook’s collection of photographs, clippings, invitations and concert programs reflect Moore’s active social life and wide acquaintance among the African American community of Iowa in the 1920s.

Credit: African American Historical Museum & Cultural Center of Iowa; Iowa Digital Collection

This group of Mexican American flappers are standing in a park somewhere in Southern California. The only woman identified is Lucinda Ordonez, who’s standing second from the right. The photograph was taken in 1925.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is one of my maternal grandmother’s relatives. The photo was probably taken in the late 1920s in Statesville, North Carolina. The women in this family sewed beautifully, so I imagine she made this dress.

Submitted by Lisa Henderson (Atlanta, GA).

The caption of this photo reads “Blanca Aguirre with a friend, 1929” though it isn’t clear which of the women is Aguirre - the professionally dressed woman in the skirt suit or the flapper wearing the hat, Louise Brooks bob, and drop waist dress. The photo was taken in San Gabriel, California.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

I love her smile! It’s unfortunate that there’s no identifying information but this is one seriously fashionable couple. The photograph was taken in 1925 and the couple is listed as Mexican American.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Sisters Raquel Sanchez Negrete and her Carmen Sanchez, circa 1928, hanging out by their car.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is my great grandmother, Ekaterina Kvasnikoff, taken in Skagway, Alaska in the 1920s. My grandmother said she was a good-natured, strong, outgoing person and a great storyteller. She was Aleut, born in Ninilchik, Alaska. For generations, she and her people were baptized into the Russian Orthodox faith, hence the Russian name. I think she’s wearing a Russian style hat that was popular at the time.

Submitted by R.T.B. (Western Washington State)

Not all women in the 1920s were flappers. This California-based Chicana gunslinger in pants, button down shirt, and tie is Maria Alatorre (ca. 1925). I love photos like this because they’re visual evidence of the wide range of femininities that have always existed.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Another one for Flapper Friday: Mexican American flappers Eloise Arciniega and Hortensia Arciniega (wearing the cloche hat) pose with an unidentified man in Long Beach, California, 1928.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library