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 190 notes

Tagged with:  #Latina  #1950s

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)

1 year ago 170 notes

Tagged with:  #Latina  #1950s

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).

This is my great grandmother, Maria Luisa Merchan Gracia, at age 40 in Venezuela in the late 1930s. 

Submitted by CJ (Chicago, IL).

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)

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

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