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).

In 1966, after studying at the University of Hawaii for two years, my mom Sumiko Carroll (née Namihira) went back to Tokyo, intending to enroll in a Japanese university. However, soon after returning home, she read a 2-line ad in the Japan Times (an English language newspaper), seeking flight attendants for Northwest Orient Airlines. Mom says, “I didn’t think I would get the job. I went mostly because I wanted to see who else would show up, but when I got there with my resumé, I was the only one there!” What followed were 5 days of tests, a different subject for each day, including English and math. “On the last day was an interview for the three of us who passed. We were told to pack and prepare to fly to Minnesota in two weeks for training.

After working for Northwest Orient for a year, Mom was hired by Pan American World Airways. Pan Am intended to compete with Japan Airlines carrying an ever-increasing number of Japanese travelers. The hiring was done in Tokyo, although Mom was based in Honolulu. She says the Asian flight attendants of Northwest Airlines worked the Asian routes only but Pan Am opened up the world to them. Mom says when she read “Northwest is hiring stewardesses. Bring resume,” she was under the height requirement, over the weight limit, and so plain! That was back when they hired the most beautiful girls, just gorgeous, most of them looked like models. But I was fluent in both English and Japanese, and that’s why they hired me.” Personally, I think they also hired her because Mom had a reputation for working hard - her nickname was “Little Tiger.”

Mom is seated in the center. From left to right, the other women are Motoko Hanyū, Hisako Kobayashi, Kyoko Ōtake, and Miyako Kuroda.

Today, my mom is a member of World Wings International. She also contributed a photo and a memory written on a 3”x5” index card to the Airborne Dreams exhibit, and recently read Christine Yano’s book of the same name. 

Submitted by MK Carroll (Honolulu, HI).

Click here and here for more photos from Airborne Dreams.

This is a picture of my grandmother, Sachiko Hamilton (R)at age 15 and her cousin. It was taken in Japan in July 1944. Several years later, she would meet her first husband, Ernest Ford, Sr. (an African American man), at an army base in Japan. They married soon after and she immigrated to Detroit where she was a seamstress. She worked for Chrysler for 30 years sewing automobile seats together. 

I’m assuming the stamp on the picture above is the name of the photographer. She made the dress that she was wearing - most of the clothing that she made had patterns on them.

Submitted by Chanel Hamilton (Ann Arbor, MI)

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

This is a portrait photograph of my great grandparents, Kakujiro and Uno Ishizaki taken in Los Angeles in the early 1920s. My mom thinks it was probably taken for their anniversary and that it was most likely sent back to Japan to either her parents or his parents.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

This impromptu photo taken after a flight was grounded due to a snowstorm shows a Nisei stewardess (as they were called then) posing in a jet engine (ca. 1968). It’s another photo from Christine Yano’s new book on the history of Nisei stewardesses called Airborne Dreams (Duke University Press, 2011). Yano argues that “Japanese American (and later other Asian and Asian American) stewardesses [as they were called in the 1950s] gave Pan Am the ‘look’ of exotic cosmopolitanism” while at the same time gave Asian American women “tremendous exposure to a larger world far beyond their local upbringing. Working for Pan Am as a flight attendant became an education for these women in cosmopolitanism and gendered service.”

The book is available for purchase now.

This is a photo of my mother, Yuriko Naito Winfrey Smith (left), in her early 20s in Tokyo (ca. early 1940s). She can’t remember the name of the woman she’s standing with. My mother made the outfit she’s wearing without the guidance of a pattern. That’s why the sleeves don’t fit her shoulders. She’s always been a topnotch tailor and made all the clothes my sister and I wore as kids. My mother is also an artist (painter), woodcarver, quilt maker and she loves to cook. Besides making fresh tofu every week, she also bakes bread.

I had so many photos of my mother in Japan throughout the 1950s looking glamorous and beautifully fashionable. But my sister allowed my footlocker filled with family albums to sit in her flooded basement so many of our photos (including my baby pictures of me in Japan) were destroyed.

Submitted by Yayoi Winfrey (Seattle, WA).

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).

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.

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

I found this Pan Am Airlines promotional photo (ca. 1956) in Christine Yano’s new book on the history of Nisei stewardesses called Airborne Dreams (Duke University Press, 2011). Yano argues that “Japanese American (and later other Asian and Asian American) stewardesses [as they were called in the 1950s] gave Pan Am the ‘look’ of exotic cosmopolitanism” while at the same time gave Asian American women “tremendous exposure to a larger world far beyond their local upbringing. Working for Pan Am as a flight attendant became an education for these women in cosmopolitanism and gendered service.”

The book is available for purchase now.

Two models in gowns designed by Kow Kaneko for a fashion show for Ladies’ Night at the Nisei Veterans reunion pose for a publicity shot. They’re standing in front of Kaneko’s studio in Pasadena, California, 22 July 1958. The models are Etsu Andow (in the dark gown) and Masako Hirano (in the light colored gown).

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

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 Japanese American fashion designer Sadohara (L) is seen here with two models at a fashion show in the Statler Hotel, Los Angeles, California (13 September 1956). The woman on the far right is the designer Riye Yoshizawa (see here and here) who helped open the Modern School of Fashion.

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

When I showed my grandmother Alice Ishizaki this photo (ca. 1918), she started laughing really hard because of the giant bow on her head. She’s about 5 years old in this photo. “That is so awful. That’s the worst hair style I ever had. Look at that bow. Horrible!” She’s posing with her parents, my great grandparents. My grandmother, Uno Ishizaki, mostly made her own clothes and likely made the outfit she’s wearing. The photo was taken in Oakland, California.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).