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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We found this when we were going through my grandma’s photos (after she passed away on April 29, 2012 at the age of 98). It’s taken in Los Angeles. I forgot about this photo but it’s one of my favorites. It was taken in the 1930s and the dress was likely made by my grandma, like a lot of her clothes.
Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

We found this when we were going through my grandma’s photos (after she passed away on April 29, 2012 at the age of 98). It’s taken in Los Angeles. I forgot about this photo but it’s one of my favorites. It was taken in the 1930s and the dress was likely made by my grandma, like a lot of her clothes.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

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

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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

Such a lovely pose! The woman in the photo is not identified, unfortunately, but the photo was taken by the legendary Addison Scurlock (ca. 1930).

Friends Enriqueta “Rikki” Caceres (L) and Alice Gonzalez Morales (R) in San Pedro, California wearing dresses that hint at the swing dresses that will become so popular in the 1940s. The photo was taken in 1935.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

These nine women are members of The Covered Wagon Whist Club. If anyone has any information on this club, I’d love to hear about it. The exact date of the photo is not known but the Smithsonian lists the date as 1930-1940.

Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

This photograph titled “Picnic group, Highland Beach, Md / 1931” shows 21 girls from the local YWCA sitting in and on what has been identified as a 1929 Packard Model 633 8-cylinder Rumble Seat Roadster. I assume that the man wearing the dress shirt and tie in the background is the adult chaperone. Notice the variety of hats some of the older girls are wearing - they’re using fashion to distinguish themselves from the younger girls in pigtails and swim caps. (Is that a sombrero on the girl sitting at the back of the car?)

Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

I think this photo was taken in 1933 for my grandmother Alice Ishizaki’s 20th birthday (far left). In Japan, when people turn 20, they’re considered adults and so you mark the occasion with formal photos. My mom told me that these photos would be passed out to your friends - much like today with the wallet-sized school photos. LOL! I guess girls have always exchanged photos with their friends!

With her in the photo are her sister Betty Ishizaki (my great-aunt), her father Kakujiro Ishizaki (my great grandfather) and her mother Uno Ishizaki (my great grandmother, seated). The photo was taken in a studio in Los Angeles.

My grandmother got married shortly after this photo was taken, wearing the same kimono but also with a magnolia in her hair.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

Nellie Castro Tafoya stands for a portrait, ca. 1937.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is (L-R) Alice Wong, Helen Hong, and Mary Dunn at Venice Beach on the Fourth of July, 1931.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

I found this family portrait in my grandmother’s photo album. The photo was taken (ca. 1930s) in a Los Angeles, California studio. From left to right are: Alice Ishizaki (my grandmother), Kakujiro Ishizaki (great grandfather), Betty Ishizaki (great-aunt), and Uno Ishizaki (great grandmother).

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

The photographer Addison N. Scurlock took this photograph of Effie Moore and her chorus troupe in the 1930s.

Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History; Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center

Korean American actors Philip Ahn and his sister Soorah Ahn are seen here in Tijuana, Mexico with friends in 1935 - doing what so many American tourists have done before and after them. To learn more about Philip Ahn, Hollywood’s first Asian American romantic lead (in the sound era) in 1937, see Hye Seung Chung’s book Hollywood Asian: Philip Ahn and the Politics of Cross-Ethnic Performance (Temple University Press 2006).

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library