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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While doing research for a talk on the history and future of vanity, I found this incredible photograph by Max Yavno of “las pachucas” — Chicana zoot suiters, in pant suits! This archive already holds several photographs of women zoot suiters but they’re wearing skirt suits or just the pants and a top. This is such a detailed photo of the entire look of las pachucas from the hair to the shoes. Beautiful! 

The photo is called “Two Women”. It was taken in Los Angeles, California in 1946.

This is my grandmother, Dominga Villegas (in the foreground) and “Mama Piedad” (in the background). I am not sure how/if they’re related. One of the houses behind them is the home that my father was born in, in Weslaco Texas. There was no running water, no electricity and they had a pump and an outhouse in the backyard. According to my father, the street was a dirt road back then and the Mexicans lived on one side of town and white people lived on the other side. The town was segregated. They may have been poor but my grandmother looks amazingly beautiful and confident in this photo.Submitted by Dagny Villegas (Indianapolis, IN). 

This is my grandmother, Dominga Villegas (in the foreground) and “Mama Piedad” (in the background). I am not sure how/if they’re related. One of the houses behind them is the home that my father was born in, in Weslaco Texas. There was no running water, no electricity and they had a pump and an outhouse in the backyard. According to my father, the street was a dirt road back then and the Mexicans lived on one side of town and white people lived on the other side. The town was segregated. They may have been poor but my grandmother looks amazingly beautiful and confident in this photo.

Submitted by Dagny Villegas (Indianapolis, IN). 

Tagged with:  #Chicana  #Latina  #1940s

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

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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).

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 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)

Everything about Lucy Fonseca (L) from her hair to her socks/sandal footwear combination is striking to me. Here she is posing with Ramona Fonseca (C) and Annie Madalena (R) in 1943. 

Rosie Albrann and Ramona Fonseca are part of a long women’s labor and fashion history that extends back to the turn of the 20th century. These garment workers are from the Barenveld Shirt Factory in San Fernando, California (ca. 1943). Their placards read: “We want a union.” and “We want a free country too.”

Love it.

Gloria Valdez (L) and Viola Soto (R) are standing with a Mexican American World War II veteran, Ed Moreno (ca. 1945). It strikes me that Soto’s dress looks so much like a wrap dress, a design generally credited to Diane von Furstenberg who is said to have “invented” the wrap dress in 1973. Soto’s dress is, at the very least, a predecessor of von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Unfortunately, there’s no identifying information regarding this photo but I couldn’t resist including her amazing hat in this archive. The woman is likely from Monrovia, California and the photo was taken in 1940.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

During New York City’s heat wave earlier this week, I saw many variations of this outfit: the bare midriff and the mini skirt put together in such a way that was more sweet than saucy. Call Esther Rivera a fashion forerunner then - here she is modeling her new summer outfit in 1946.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

You’ve heard of zoot suits - but did you know there were also zoot skirt suits? A woman only identified by her first name, Josie, is wearing one such suit while standing on the corner of E. 41st St. and Long Beach Avenue in Los Angeles, California in 1945. In the background is the restaurant, El Tonga.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Alba Barrios, Frances Silva, and Lorena Eucinas (L-R) are pictured here in their prison-issue cardigan sweater, dress, and perfectly coiffed hairdos. They were arrested in connection with a slaying at Sleepy Lagoon in Southeast Los Angeles. The photo was taken in 1942.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

Photographs of 1940s White servicemen dancing with and kissing White women are a familiar part of our cultural imagination but non-White American men also served during both World Wars. This photograph is a stunning reminder of this aspect of U.S. history. Here, two Mexican American men (at least one of whom is a serviceman) pose with their sweethearts in 1940. (The railing is an in-studio prop.)

Notice the floral design peeking out between the life preserver on the woman’s skirt. Its placement seems almost purposeful, as if she wanted to make certain that the prop didn’t obstruct a view of her lovely skirt. Style matters - even, or perhaps especially, when posing with one’s sweetheart.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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