Day 1: Bethann, Rosemary and Sola

08Jul09

bethann_0

My first call was to Bethann Hardison. “The Goddess” championing for Women and Men of Color on the runways and fashion pages. We see her as the heralder and voice for visibility beyond the Pale. (image from Uptown magazine’s recent article)

anne loweheadshotSecond call. I had a vibrant talk with Rosemary E. Miller, the author of  “The Threads of Time, the Fabric of History: Profiles of African- American Dressmakers and Designers from 1850 to the Present.”  (2007, T & S Press, ISBN #0-970-9713-0-3) Have been a fan since discovering her book and the super compelling portrait of Anne Lowe, the designer of Jackie O’s wedding dress.

Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress

In her book,Rosemary E. Reed Miller writes that Ann’s mother designed clothes for the wife of the Governor of Alabama.  Ann later designed for the ‘top’ ladies in Montgomery, Tampa, and New York City.

Reed Miller continues…”Ann’s most famous wedding party commission was from the mother of Jackie Bouvier in September 12, 1953. Joe Kennedy made sure the wedding got maximum exposure for his senator son. However, Jackie didn’t promote Ann’s name, and only Nina Hyde, who was the social, fashion editor of the Washington Post wrote that the dress was designed by a Negro, Ann Lowe.”   

Jackie+Kennedy+Wedding
There is so much history here going all the way back to Lincoln’s day with Elizabeth Keckly. Here, from Amazon reviews, is the story: “Born a slave in 1818, Elizabeth endured 37 years of abuse, including forced sexual relations (and a resulting pregnancy) before buying freedom for herself and her son. Once free, she used her sewing skills to become one of Washington D.C.’s most successful dressmakers. Then she closed her dress shop to care for the first lady after her husband’s assassination, and she lost many valuable customers. A misguided attempt to help save Mrs. Lincoln’s reputation with a book entitled Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House ended the friendship. The book was seen as a cruel betrayal, and Keckley eventually died in a home for destitute women and children in 1907. Rutberg’s account is interesting, but not as gripping as Keckley’s own book, which gives an often terrifying glimpse into the life of a slave.”

These images give me chills especially knowing how much more honor these women are due. Rosemary speaks passionately about the elegance of dressing elegantly and the lack of recognition for the skills of tailoring.  (one of my favorite subjects)  She wondered where the football stadiums were to celebrate the primarily women’s art of sewing and adornment.  

Keckly-portrait

Elizabeth_Keckly_UNC

Rosemary is doing the third edition of her book, updating it to over 100 portraits.  I am praying that she joins us for this event as an advisor.  My dream is an exhibit of this wealth of history that Rosemary has documented.

Sola Oyebade

Third Outreach. Sola Oyebade.  Back to the present day.  Sola heads up Mahogany Model Management in London and is very outspoken on this issue.  

Click here for the event “Fashion Beyond The Pale”



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