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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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.

The Daily News titled this photograph “Mexican American Female Gang” when it ran the photo in 1942 but the systematic criminalization of Mexicans in the 1940s as a justification for racially-motivated attacks (especially directed at zoot suiters) makes me a little wary of the title. In any case, these women seem so utterly cool to me. They’ve been arrested and are sitting in a police station when this photo was taken but look at the nonchalant, almost bored, expression of Frances Silva on the upper left and the raised defiant chin of Josephine Gonzales on the bottom left, as well as the cavalier pose of Lorena Encina on the bottom right in her baggy zoot suit pants and perfect hair. The other two women on the bench are Juanita Gonzales and D. Barrios. These sister-friends (consider the protective gesture of Encina’s elbow on Barrios’ leg) are such badasses, all of them.

This is Dolores Tejeda (20 years old) of Oxnard, California - the winner of the Southland’s Latin-American colony beauty contest. Her title is La Reina de Churubusco IX. She was chosen from 12 finalists in a contest held in conjunction with the ninth annual Black and White Ball.

The photograph was originally published in The Los Angeles Times on 7 September 1948.

These Mexican American women are on a YWCA outing in 1944. They’re posing in a mountain stream. I’m especially loving the individualist on the far left standing ankle deep in the stream, in trousers and a sweater.

But please note too that the woman in the makeshift two-piece bathing suit, second from the right (her bottoms are most likely shorts that she’s bunched up to reveal as much leg as possible), is ahead of her time. Dominant fashion histories credit French engineer Louis Réard with the invention of the bikini in 1946 and 19 year-old Parisian model Micheline Bernardini as the first to pose in a bikini - both events took place two years after this photo was taken.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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

Marylou Martinez and Mary Puga (standing left to right) are preparing to go out on the town with their friends (ca. 1964). All are donning classic 1960s bouffants.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is an incredibly flirty Yolanda Pinedo giving the photographer a glimpse of her petticoat. Her short hair and pose suggest that she was a fashion daredevil. The photo was taken in San Fernando, California in 1960.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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

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

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is Mexican American Estela Gomez, at a beach probably somewhere in Southern California, 1963.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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

Mary Martel is posing next to her car wearing the happiest polka dotted dress ever. The photo was taken in 1945 in Los Angeles, 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