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 my grandmother in the 1960s. Here she appears to be the very picture of composure, her high-collared, close-fitting shift dress and closed-toe shoes are in contrast with the barely clad beachgoers in the water behind her. This was probably taken very soon before she and my grandfather emigrated from Taiwan to move to California, where she still lives.

What is amazing to me about this photograph is that I know almost nothing about her life before she moved to the LA/Orange County (California) area. It’s a time rarely spoken about directly in my family, and only occasionally alluded to in a manner that I imagine might be shared among many immigrants to the U.S. In fact, this photo is one of the first glimpses I have ever had into my grandmother’s youth. I came across it accidentally only days ago in a photo hunt for her 90th birthday. I do know that in the decades after this photograph was taken, she and my grandfather became restaurant owners and real estate developers in Orange County. She has actually lived longer in the U.S. than she has outside of it.

Submitted by Yeesheen Yang (San Diego, CA).

This is my mom, Wei-Kuo Liang, in a Lane Crawford jumpsuit at the Hilton Hawaii hotel beach, 1970.

Submitted by Gracie O (Phoenix, Arizona).

This is my mom, Wei-Kuo Liang, at the Tokyo World’s Fair (1970). Her coat is from Woolworth’s and she’s wearing a floral shift dress underneath. 

Submitted by Gracie O (Phoenix, Arizona).

This is my mom, Wei-Kuo Liang, in Luxembourg in 1969. She’s wearing shorts from Hong Kong, a convertible fur coat (that could transform into a jacket, a mid-length coat, or a long coat), knee-high go-go boots and a red silk scarf from Taiwan. The temperature is below zero but she chose to wear hot pants that day - that’s just the kind of woman she was.

Submitted by Gracie O (Phoenix, Arizona).

In 1967, my mom, Wei-Kuo Liang, accompanied her parents on a visit to her brother in boot camp at Hualien, Taiwan. My grandfather took her photo in front of the ivory bridge. She’s wearing a pleated yellowy green empire waist silk dress with gold heels.

Submitted by Gracie O (Phoenix, Arizona).

When my mom, Wei-Kuo Liang, was in her twenties, she was a stewardess for China Airlines. This allowed her the freedom to see the world and undoubtedly expanded her life, and fashion horizons. She was always bold and fearless, especially for her day, which is why she’s an inspiration to me.She’s a fiercely independent woman and I think it shows through her clothes. I try to emulate her courageousness and have been known to take a few fashion risks myself. (I constantly chide her for not saving her clothes for the daughter she never knew she would have.) My mom has taught me to take no prisoners and to be strong. She is, hands down, the most influential person in my life.

In this photo, she’s 26 years old and visiting the Hoover Dam en route to Las Vegas (1970). My mom’s wearing a mini red dress with little green and gold flower print and red/gold shoes and sunglasses from New York. There’s a blue silk scarf in her hair. She tells me that my grandmother stressed the importance of not bending over in this dress.

Submitted by Gracie O (Phoenix, AZ).