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 is a photograph of my grandmother, Manuela Lizarraga, taken in the market of Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico in the late 1950s. I think that she probably made this dress herself since she came from a humble family with several children. Her views on fashion are more about utility - even the dress she is wearing in the picture is about utility. However, my grandmother, to this day, loves to wear skirts and dresses and I have never seen her wearing pants. I love seeing this photograph of my Mama Nela (as all her grandchildren call her) because it reveals her strong and undeniably sassy character! 

Submitted by Kareli Lizarraga (Philadelphia, PA)

1 year ago 199 notes

Tagged with:  #Latina  #1950s

This is my mother, Barbara Taylor Jewell, who passed away on November 2, 2011. The photo was taken at a dance held by Delta Sigma Theta (my mother’s sorority) and their “brother” fraternity Omega Psi Phi at Clark College in Atlanta. My mother, who made the dress herself, was voted Miss Omega of 1951. We found the corsage among her things after she died.
Submitted by Joseph O. Jewell (College Station, TX)

This is my mother, Barbara Taylor Jewell, who passed away on November 2, 2011. The photo was taken at a dance held by Delta Sigma Theta (my mother’s sorority) and their “brother” fraternity Omega Psi Phi at Clark College in Atlanta. My mother, who made the dress herself, was voted Miss Omega of 1951. We found the corsage among her things after she died.

Submitted by Joseph O. Jewell (College Station, TX)

This is a photo of my mother, Luz Celenia Perez-Velez in 1952. It was probably shot in a photo studio in the Bronx, New York. She was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in 1936 so she would have been about 16 years old in this photo. My mother probably sent this photo to him in Korea while they were married and my father carried it around with him until he died in 2008. 

I love this picture because her smile is brilliant and full of promise. What is amazing about this photograph is the transformation of a girl who was orphaned at age six and raised by an assortment of extended family, friends, and strangers, with very little education and in extreme poverty. She was the youngest of six kids, and once her brothers made their way to New York, they struggled to bring her there. While her trip was to New York was lonely and frightening, she was enormously grateful to them for bringing her to New York. Just two years after arriving, in her own words, she “blossomed”. 

The dress probably came from a factory that her brother owned called Margie Designs. She learned English quickly, and until she died loved fashion. She had an eye for beautiful and classic designs, and looked beautiful each time she stepped outside into the world. She gave all of us our love of fashion, design, and clean lines. I miss her every day.

Submitted by Diana Velez (Brooklyn, NY)

2 years ago 173 notes

Tagged with:  #Latina  #1950s

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)

This photograph is titled “Elks Fashion Show, 1956” but it’s odd to me that all the women are in bathing suits. I haven’t seen too many fashion shows in which bathing suits are the primary or exclusive garment featured. My guess is that this was really a local beauty pageant.

Source: H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College archive in Alabama.

This woman might be the Miami-based model named Elnita. The biographical information is unclear. However, the description of the photo clearly states that the swimsuit - manufactured by Alix of Miami - is inspired by France and the “Far East.” The photo was taken on a Dade County beach called Matheson Hammock in 1959. Personally, I’d LOVE to have this swimsuit now - the “Far East” inspiration, notwithstanding.

Credit: State Library and Archives of Florida, Department of Commerce Collection

This is Miss University of Chicago 1954, Janice Porter. Longtime Of Another Fashion followers might recall that I posted another photo of the beauty queen a few months ago. You can see that one here.

Submitted by Lynn Mally (Irvine, CA).

This is my grandma in the mid to late 1950s in Chicago. She’s wearing store-bought clothes, probably purchased from either I Magnin or Bullocks department stores, where she worked. My grandma passed away in January 2011.

Submitted by N. D. (Los Angeles, CA).

As a general rule, it’s not the clothes but rather the relationship between the clothes, the woman, and the social context that is centralized in OF ANOTHER FASHION. But while this dress is displayed on a dress form rather than a person, the background story of the dress is so amazing and so relevant that I decided to include it in this archive.

From the National Museum of African American History and Culture website:

Though Rosa Parks is best known for her role as a civil-rights activist, the Alabama native also worked as a talented seamstress at the Montgomery Fair Department Store. She was on her way home from work on December 1, 1955, when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. That very day, she had been sewing the dress above.

There’s very little known about this photo taken in 1959 by the Kirksey Photo Studio but what I love about it is the bride’s eyeglasses. Today, more often than not, contact lenses replace eyeglasses during formal events - it was a happy surprise to find them here.

Credit: Anacostia Community Museum, Percival Bryan Collection

These two women are posing at Disneyland in 1956. The women with the corsage is identified as Isabel Varges from Colombia, and she’s the Godmother of the other woman’s daughter (unidentified). I haven’t been to Disneyland in at least 20 years but I doubt the park gets very many visitors wearing corsages. Style!

3 years ago 56 notes

Tagged with:  #Latina  #1950s

Looking so cool on a warm summer day in Greenwood, Mississippi (ca. 1950s). Unfortunately, there’s no identifying information attached to this photo.

Of Another Fashion is committed to the fashion histories of ordinary women so I haven’t posted many photos of actors but I couldn’t resist posting this one of Eartha Kitt (who replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman) looking uncharacteristically unglamorous but still beautiful in a white cotton top, denim shorts, and flip flops in August 1952 - a quintessential New York City summer scene.

This photo and several others were taken by Gordon Parks, who would later go on to direct the blaxploitation classic Shaft (1971) and co-found Essence magazine.  Parks was also the first African American photographer to work for LIFE magazine.

A short clip of the San Diego History Center’s latest exhibition, "Portrait of a Proud Community: Norman Baynard’s Logan Heights, 1939-1985." It’s an amazing photo exhibition of a Black community in San Diego, California that’s being co-created with the public. Sound familiar?

In the 1950s, about 10 years after Japanese Americans were released from internment camps, there was something of a renaissance of Japanese American fashion especially in California. Designers like Kow Kaneko, Sadohara, and Ryie Yoshizawa (see here and here) had their own labels, their own shops, and solo fashion shows. Although they used mostly Japanese American models like Michi Kumamoto, Mary Kitano, and Lily Shitara, it appears that their clientele was mostly white. According to the Japanese American National Museum, Yoshizawa also opened the Modern School of Fashion. (To see more posts of fashion models, click the “models” tag below.)

In this photo, fashion designer and store owner Kow Kaneko presents her designs to a white client in her store in Pasadena, California (25 November 1955).

Photograph by Toyo Miyatake, from the Rafu Shimpo collection at the Japanese American National Museum.