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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Maybe the most stylish librarian ever - check out that fascinator! Lucille Baldwin Brown was the first Black public county librarian in Tallahassee, Florida. This photograph is part of the collection at the State Library and Archives of Florida.

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).

This fabulous woman is my paternal grandmother, Minerva Turner (1924- 1992). She owned her own hair salon/”wig clinic” in Chicago in the ’60s, and this hair piece is one of her many amazing creations. I’m pretty sure she made the coat as well. She was fiercely Independent - much to the dismay of two of her husbands, both of whom wound up divorcing her and taking the kids. My mother told me that my father, also deceased, told her that it was because they wanted a wife that would stay at home, but she refused to give up her dream of being a self-supporting business owner. He followed in her footsteps and became a hairstylist. I’ve also been told that on a major shopping trip to New York after her business took off, she was denied entry into the high-end shops because they didn’t “serve her kind.” She had a hard life, but she never gave up on her dream, her style, or her hard partying ways. I am so incredibly proud of her.

Submitted by Ariel Wolf (New York, NY)

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

This woman - displaying swagger before it became a trendy term! - is a model in a fashion show at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee (ca 1985).

Credit: State Library and Archives of Florida; The Deborah Thomas Collection

This gorgeous photo of a 1963 Harlem fashion show is one of the many images on display at the soon-to-open exhibition, Posing Beauty In African American Culture which has been traveling throughout the country over the last year or so. The exhibition is curated by Deborah Willis, Professor and Chair of the Photography and Imaging Department at NYU. Willis’ work is amazing and this exhibition looks fabulous - if you’re in the Los Angeles area, do check it out. If you’re not in the area and can’t wait for the exhibition to open near you, you can buy the  book by the same name. The New York Times raves:

With “Posing Beauty,” Willis has for­ever changed the conversation about beauty in American life. After centuries of exclusion and segregation in which African-­American beauty existed on the margins of the culture, Willis offers readers a thoughtful and nuanced consideration of the relationship of beauty and power. She invites us to marvel at the glamour and elegance contained in the photographs, and in the process instructs us on how to expand the definition of beauty within our national imagination.

To expand the definition of beauty within our national imagination. An exhibition after my own heart.

Photo credits: Top photo by Leonard Freed taken in 1963, bottom photo “Harlem, 1970” by Anthony Barboza.


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

This is my grandma in a 1964 Hollywood club. She’s wearing one of the many dresses she made. She passed away January 2011.

Submitted by N. D. (Los Angeles, CA).

Friends Concha Galindo, Henrietta Valencia and Fortunata Valencia, on a one day trip to Santa Barbara 1920.

Credit: Los Angeles Public Library

This is my mom, Alice Antwi. Her older sister, an air hostess, gave her this lacey see-through mini dress. She’s also wearing a baseball cap, which was a very popular accessory at the time. This photograph was taken in 1974 at her father’s house in Kumasi, Ghana.

Submitted by Ama Kyere (Ellicott City, MD).

This woman is buying ice cream for children from a truck in Natchitoches, Louisiana (ca. 1940). From the looks of her hat, her dress, and the general elegance of all the people in the photo, my guess is that this photo was taken after church. Everyone seems to be in their Sunday Best. (Notice the man in the hat and three-piece suit and the children’s clothes, which are clearly not play clothes.)

Source: Farm Security Administration Collection. The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

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 is my mother, Alice Antwi. She grew up in Kumasi, Ghana. She describes herself as someone who went “with the flow” of fashion which, for many Ghanaians at that time, meant Western fashion. But back then, she told me, you wore whatever you had at the time. It is not like how it is here in the U.S. You can’t just decide to wear wedges and buy them whenever you want. Maxi dresses, mini dresses, and midi dresses were all in style. My mom also wore traditional prints and head wraps. She had a lot of her clothes made for her. She looked at catalogues and found a pattern that she liked. Then she purchased fabric - often colorful fabric because she likes colorful things. She then took the fabric to a tailor who made the dress for her.

She didn’t have much to say about this particular outfit in the photo above except, “We wore headgear all the time. It is part of our dressing.” This photo was taken in 1975 in Ankofol when she was a nursing student doing a rotation at a psychiatric hospital - just 5 years before she moved to the U.S.

Submitted by Ama Kyere (Ellicott City, MD).

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).