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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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. 

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

Florence Yamaguchi (left), and Kinu Hirashima, both from Los Angeles, are pictured as they stand under an apple tree at Manzanar internment camp. (Their hairdos are amazing - especially Hirashima’s bangs!)

Credit: National Archives Registry


An advertisement for Royal Crown Hair Dressing, a hair and scalp conditioner. (1966)

I can’t decide what part of Marguerite Willard’s look I love more, her corsage or her hair which recalls Princess Leia’s hair buns but, you know, preceded them by about 50 years!

Welcome to Flapper Friday!

This hairstyle, dubbed the “Freedom Burst,” is another look featured in the Jones’ All About the Natural book published by Clairol, Inc. (1971). The “bursts” are created by two separate cornrow braids beginning from above each eyebrow and braided back.

Photographs like this make me feel really lazy about my own hair. Sitting from left to right are Kiyo Yoshida, Lillian Watkatsuki, and Yoshiko Yamasaki. These high school girls are in a biology class in the Manzanar internment camp - look at that gravity-defying hair pouf on Yamasaki!

Photographed by Ansel Adams, 1943. From the Library of Congress

The contestants of the Miss Black America Beauty Pageant (1972) in evening gowns. (From the Black Studies Center Database)

It’s significant that many of the contestants have Afros here. Just as the Afro is a politicized aesthetic that gave visual expression to the principle that “Black is Beautiful,” the Miss Black America pageant like so many “ethnic pageants” was itself a political event that drew critical attention to the absence of Black women in the Miss America pageants. Ethnic and racial pageants make clear, first, that Miss America pageants (like other national pageants) are staging areas for the interarticulation of gender and citizenship and second, that this relationship is always expressed in racial terms.

For a great article on the role of Black beauty pageants and struggles for social justice, see "Fighting Racism, One Swimsuit at a Time" by Belva Davis, founder of the Miss Bronze California pageants.

An advertisement for Posner Bergamot hair and scalp conditioner. (1966)

An advertisement for Perma-Strate Cream hair straightener (1965).

This is my mom’s oldest sister Nguyen ThoDam at Honolulu International Airport on her way back to SaiGon, Viet Nam in 1965. She was studying abroad at Southern Illinois University from 1961-1965 and in a home economics class made that fabulous coat she’s wearing from a Vogue pattern. When I was growing up in the U.S., I was told over and over that I took after my aunt who lived in Viet Nam until 1990. I don’t have her sewing skills but I would have loved to have inherited that coat, the tan satchel, her charm bracelet, and her accommodating hair. (My thick and stubbornly straight hair would never agree to that flick up!)

About ten years after this photo was taken, she (along with two of her brothers and her husband) would spend a year in a Communist reeducation prison camp. Her “crime” was working for USAID, a governmental humanitarian organization.

An advertisement for Raveen Hair and Scalp Conditioner, “a hair grooming aid with cholesterol added”. (1965)