Monday, July 10, 2017


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At a time when society supported segregation, Ebony Magazine founder John H. Johnson and wife, Eunice W. Johnson, afforded people of color an unexpected gateway to fashion. Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair at The George Washington University Textile Museum summarizes five decades of Fashion Fair, the cultural extravaganza that brought designer clothing to African American audiences. The exhibit, with stunning life-like mannequins donning relatable pieces by still-relevant designers, highlights how the essence of black beauty fared in the challenging climate of a Jim Crow society. Keep reading to see more...

[L] Krizia jumpsuit F/W 1981-82 // [M] Emanuel Ungaro evening dress F/W 1987-88 // [R] Pierre Cardin gown F/W 1988-89

40 dresses and 100 objects tell the story of Eunice Johnson's Fashion Fair and the aspirational reality generated by Ebony magazine. In 1958, Eunice Johnson established the Fashion Fair, a coast-to-coast fashion showcase of black women clad in European and African-American designs. Creating more than just a racial runway, the Fashion Fair raised funds in support of African American charities, generated opportunities (e.g. hiring of models, photographers, make-up artists, etc.) and raised notions of equality by featuring plus-size models and inspiring a cosmetic line to accommodate the skin tones of an under-represented race.

Bob Mackie "evening ensemble" F/W 1984-85 (Appeared in Color Fantasy)

On tour, models travelled from town to town on a bus and maintained a cautious dignity. Though blacks and whites used different bathrooms and separate entrances, the models never entered restaurants through the back; instead, the bus driver would buy take out for the girls. In towns that were unfamiliar, the women stayed at private residences instead of hotels. Eventually, the landscape changed and racism became diluted by the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately, the Fashion Fair folded in 2009 due to financial difficulty and its founder passed a year later at the age of 93.
Front: [L] Patrick Kelly "evening dress" F/W 1986 (Appeared in Fashion Scandal) // [R] L'Amour "evening ensemble" Special Order 2001 (Appeared in The Changing Trend`s of Fashion)

In memory of the Johnsons' contributions and Fashion Fair, a traveling exhibit opened in Chicago in 2013, designed by the Chicago History Museum in collaboration with Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. Much like Fashion Fair, the collection has travelled across the US, most recently landing in Washington DC. Organized into 3 main themes--Revealing, Bold and Sassy--the installation features documents, magazines, video and iconic pieces from Eunice Johnson's 8,000 piece collection. Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair remains on display at the George The George Washington University Textile Museum until July 24, 2017.

 Vivienne Westwood ball gown F/W 2002-03 (Appeared in Simply Spectacular)

[R] Tilmann Grawe F/W 2003-04 // [M] Stephen Burrows S/S 2007 // [R] Yves Saint Laurent F/W 1979-80

 Intricate ensemble!

Remnants of Mrs. Johnson's Fashion Fair

Installation view + photographs

 Installation view

 Ebony Magazine photos

 Christian Lacroix "cocktail ensemble" F/W 1987-88 (Appeared in Fashion Sizzle)

 Two of my favorites!

ChloƩ "evening dress" F/W 1983-84 (Appeared in Fashion Extravaganza)

Installation view

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