Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

homepage_logo

I’m left feeling SO MUCH after watching this!! Too much to get down in any kind of coherent way. Genius ChildIf you have a little time, maybe whilst sewing or knitting, watch and learn about the life, times and art of this radiant, this genius, child.

Style Icon: Eartha Kitt

7e6ea7c9e39696293856e57798b21c22

This post wants to be about the lack of recognition and due respect paid to black style icons throughout history. It wants to be about that struggle being the least of their worries in their own time. It wants to be about a great many things: feminism and how it’s different when you’re black, beauty and how it’s viewed differently when you’re black, style and how often it’s copied without credit when you’re black.

BUT

That shit brings me down! Sometimes, even in my own heart and mind, I just want it to be simple! A simple post, conversation, thought, feeling about this person of color and how looking at them

MAKES ME FEEL GOOD!!!

Let’s look at Eartha.

LOOK AT HER!!

She is fucking stunning!

Even though Eartha Kitt was a singer rather than a movie star - she sure had the glamour!

And she knows it.

A STUNNING photo of Eartha Kitt! Thanks @Dee

The fabulous, Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt

Look at that rare, girlish smile!!

Eartha Kitt

And look, LOOOOOOK at her MOOOOOVE!!

Eartha Kitt, 1951 (Russell Westwood)

Eartha Kitt #wholesale #fall #fashion #clothing #ootd #wiwt #shopitrightnow #graphics #patterns #earthakitt #bombshell #celebrity

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt dances during Dizzy Gillespie’s set at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1954.

Look at the POWER!!

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt And Patrice Munsel  Date taken:	1955  Photographer:	George Silk

Eartha Kitt, 1955. Photo by George Silk

There are millions of images like these from old Hollywood, but not so many of its African American stars.

Being fitted.

Valentino Vamp. Eartha Kitt

Getting pretty.

Eartha Kitt in her dressing room in 1952.

Embracing style and motherhood, with equal aplomb.

Eartha Kitt having fun with daughter Kitt. looking like fiyah!!! get it Eartha!!

She appeared to be so unapologetic about being her full self! So proud and regal (which some might feel she shouldn’t have because of her very humble beginnings, and that is a massive understatement, but this post is not about that)!! So, SO talented and passionate!

And beautiful!!

Especially as she aged.

Eartha Kitt

I hope to see her name and likeness in more vintage style reports around the blogisphere.

She was there.

And she looked fucking awesome.

Black is Beautiful

I’m sure I’ve shared my love of periodicals. I’ve also shared how hard it is to look out over a sea of magazines and see (maybe) one brown face looking back at me.
So, even though I’m supposed to be on a magazine diet, I could NOT resist bringing these two home. So I can leave them out and know that my brown babies will see someone like them, too.
Happy. Smiling. Brown. Beautiful.

Designers of Color in Fashion History :: Patrick Kelly

Designers of Color in Fashion History :: Patrick Kelly

I was astonished to learn that Jay Jaxon was the first American (and by default, African American) haute couturier. He is not widely known, so it stands to reason that this extraordinary fact about him must be little known, too. So, I found myself surprised, again, when reading up on Patrick Kelly. In the late 80′s Kelly was the first American and person of color to become a member of the exclusive Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter. Though Kelly enjoyed a degree of success and recognition during his lifetime, that has endured after his passing, I imagine that this honor felt like a huge validation of his talent and vision as a designer.
After all, the world he would eventually inhabit was light years away from his humble, but proud, beginnings. In his working class Mississippi home, Kelly was surrounded by female family members with a flair for making-do and mending. He was introduced to embellishing, reworking and otherwise refashioning from a very early age. It was here that his social consciousness was raised, too. According to reports, Kelly noticed the lack of African American women featured in magazines. His grandmother explained that designers did not think of them when making clothes. This, perhaps, provides some reasoning for the imagery he used in his work. Golliwogs previously had no place in haute couture.

robin-givhan-patrick-kelly

Kelly began what would become his life’s work, to clothe ALL women, by starting with his junior high classmates whom he designed and sewed dresses for. Later, Kelly attended Jackson State University where he studied art history and African American history. Eventually driven out by the prejudice and racism he experienced, he left his hometown to pursue a career in fashion.
On his own and living in Atlanta, he began to make clothes again. This time, to sell. His work sorting donations at AMVETS (an American veterans’ organization, there) gave him access to a wealth of designer clothing. He refashioned the garments and sold them alongside his original designs. This allowed him to work as a window dresser at the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Boutique for free. The position gave him a crucial in with the fashion industry elite. His volunteerism paid off. Kelly began to draw a salary at the St Laurent boutique and eventually opened his own selling vintage. In addition to this, he taught classes at a modeling school where Pat Cleveland, a notable person of color in fashion’s history in her own right, encouraged him to go to New York.
Taking the advice to heart, Kelly studied design at Parsons in New York City before landing in Paris where he really began to make his mark. Calling on his combined influences: skills he learned at the feet of his family, showmanship developed while in school, technical skills honed at Parsons and the hustle he displayed when volunteering at the St Laurent boutique, Patrick sold his designs on the streets of Paris. To much acclaim. This is not an easy thing to do. According to Christian Lacroix, “The French function according to love at first sight. If they fall in love with you, they accept you. And Patrick is very lovable. Everybody loves him.” It’s as simple as that. Or is it? Patrick was driven. He took risks. He worked hard. His success did not come from nowhere.

0000227488-001

Kelly went on to produce unique collections, presented in electrifying (for their time) shows. He remained true to his mission by designing with all women in mind and kept an ear to the street so that his work was reflective of what was in Parisian style. He believed in making affordable clothing, the kind of luxury that women like his mother, aunt and grandmother could have worn in their time. He achieved a level of success that those women, his “full-figured girls”, did not think possible. He had clothes in the finest boutiques, magazine spreads in Elle and so many orders and freelance jobs that he hadn’t vacationed in years. His creations were worn by princesses (like Diana) actresses (like Jane Seymour) and the singers (like Madonna and Grace Jones). It was the all singing, all dancing Patrick Kelly show.

Patrick-Kelly_-Iman_-Grace-jones-Naomi-Campbell

But that show would not go on. Kelly’s full and fabulous life was cut short at age 35(ish- he was secretive about his actual year of birth). Though the original cause of death was attributed to bone marrow disease and a brain tumor, it was later confirmed that Kelly was HIV positive and his death was AIDS related. Unlike the houses of other famous designers, Kelly’s folded after his death. One can’t help but wonder what led to this. Kelly had a seemingly vast (and influential) circle of friends. Did legal issues play into the demise of his house? Was there a clash of interests that led its standstill? Are there other, notable designers of color whose work died with them?
This article originally appeared at Handmaker’s Factory.
There’s a lot more information available about Patrick Kelly than there was about Jay Jaxon. Spend a little time getting to know more about him and he’ll start feeling like a long lost friend!

Designers of Color in Fashion History :: A Handmaker’s Factory Series

Hi, again! I’ve popped back in to direct you to a bit of fashion history reading over at The Handmaker’s Factory blog. I’ve contributed my first article (of many, hopefully) and I’d love to know what you think!
Handmaker's Factory

Designers of Color in Fashion History

FYI: Thanks for the sick baby well wishes. The kid (the boy twin, he of the always-gets-sick-first-weak-immune-system) did stay home again, today. Mostly sleeping. And taking advantage of more TV viewing than usual. He should be good to go for tomorrow, hopefully.

Summer in the Wintertime

Summer in the Wintertime

Top :: Old Navy (from a zillion years ago)
Skirt :: Handmade
Tights :: F21
Boots :: Target
New Lipstick :: Revlon Super Lustrous in Black Cherry
New Blush :: e.l.f. All Over Color Stick in Pink Lemonade

I think of this skirt as a summer look. It certainly should be worn with bare legs, as it wanted to climb up my body even with a slip on. Even so, I was pretty comfy for the day.

Summer in the Wintertime

I’ve been all into Black fashion history, lately. I checked out two amazing works from the library. Both, unfortunately, deal with aspects of our history that are painful and difficult to read. Our major struggles (slavery, racism, oppression) but also relatively minor ones, too. Those that deal with expressing ourselves, succeeding and triumphing through all things. But, the books also hold many very positive messages and stories about self expression in spite enslavement/oppression/resistance and really celebrate and validate the right to express, and take pride in, our personal style and beauty.

There is this amazing new short film titled “The Door” from Miu Miu that brought black fashion history to the forefront of my thoughts. It’s directed by an incredible Black woman, Ava DuVernay, and stars Black women (Gabrielle Union, Alfre Woodard, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Adepero Oduye, and singer-songwriter Goapele) wearing AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL clothes!

From Miu Miu:

The Door, by Ava DuVernay, the fifth Miu Miu Women’s Tale, is a celebration of the transformative power of feminine bonds, and a symbolic story of life change. The symbolic centre of The Door is the front entrance of the protagonist’s home. As she opens it to greet a friend in the powerfully framed opening scenes, she is shrouded in an oblique sadness. “In the film, characters arrive at the door of a friend in need, bringing something of themselves,” explains director DuVernay. “Eventually, we witness our heroine ready to walk through the door on her own. The door in the film represents a pathway to who we are.” Clothing is also a symbol of renewal, each change of costume charting our heroine’s emergence from a chrysalis of sadness. In the final scenes, she takes off her ring, pulls on long, black leather gloves, and walks, transformed by the emotive power of the clothing, through the door.

The existence of this film is in direct relation to the topics discussed in Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry. It is still uncommon enough to have anything fashion related feature so many BROWN women that  watching this film feels like a victory. Ms. DuVernay has created a world as visually appealing as the clothing featured in it.

Those beautiful women look wonderful in those clothes.
They look beautiful on film.
They look at home in their luxurious surroundings.
They sell the clothing as capably as women of any color.
The number of women on the set of this film, contributing to its beauty, is a triumph for all women.

Cheers to Miu Miu for celebrating that.

Check out the other Miu Miu Women’s Tale stories here.

Misters Obama & King

Ms. Carolyn said it well enough that I need not repeat it.
I hope you enjoyed this Inauguration day with your children, family and friends.

Carmen & Geoffrey

Yesterday, in my dance fever post, I included this photo of Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder.

I posted it, even though they were not dancing, because I knew that they are both dancers.

Their impact on that world is massive and eternal. More so than I even knew at the time. Truthfully, before I read about Carmen & Geoffrey the documentary on Shadow & Act, I had never heard of her and only thought of him as my beloved Punjab from Annie.

Well, cut to last night. With that dance post heavy on my mind. I needed something to watch while I (finally, after much procrastinating) ironed the kids clothes for the next day. I clicked over to Netflix and put on C&G because that gorgeous picture of them was still on my mind.

WHAT A FASCINATING STORY!!

I was riveted to the TV! I stayed up, waaay too late, because I simply could not wait until the next day to see the film in its entirety. There should be classes taught about these two. Seriously. The amount of work they’ve done, barriers they’ve broken and longevity they’ve maintained is truly astonishing. There are, to me anyway, parallels in their lives and those of another powerhouse couple: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. While Carmen and Geoffrey continue to enjoy a long and happy marriage, and Frida and Diego did not, their creativity, talent, drive and equal levels of success in their respective fields is quite similar.

Very few artists are appreciated and celebrated in their own lifetime like these four were. Carmen and Geoffrey have stacks and stacks of awards and accolades. They branched beyond dance and performed in film and theater productions. Geoffrey is an amazing gifted painter and director. Shows that he choreographed in the 60s and 70s are still performed. Carmen has taught throughout her life and at over eighty years old, she still dances and performs. Often.  Learning about these two should be required for all artists for their lives are a lesson in staying relevant and happy. Their loyalty and support of one another is rare, too. Geoffrey was still calling her his goddess and muse at nearly 50 years together. Carmen still a frequent subject of his paintings. She still performs work he choreographed, wearing a dress he created just for her.

If you have a Netflix subscription, consider watching this beautiful film about these two extraordinarily interesting people and the highlights of a life lived completely on their own terms.

Gotta Dance

In my mind, I am a dancer.

I think I daydream about it at least once a day. More, if I’m being truthful. Usually while I’m listening to music.

But, real life is not a daydream. In the waking world, I have two (backwards) left feet.

The thing is….I think, if I could have gotten over feeling self conscious and awkward and unpretty, I could have been a dancer.

For real.

Lucky for me, I have true joy in watching others perform.

From musicals to PBS ballroom dance broadcasts to my children grooving to Nina Simone.

Gotta Dance

Eartha Kitt teaching a dance class. Yes, that is James Dean.

Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov dance together during a 1976 press conference to announce the premiere of “Pas de Duke,” a duet choreographed for them by Alvin Ailey set to the music of Duke Ellington.

Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder

American Bandstand

Writing legends Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou dance in the atrium of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, over the interred ashes of Langston Hughes.

Dancers, Mott Haven, David Gonzalez, New York.

Katherine Dunham dancing the Florida East-Coast shimmy with dancer Ohardieno during show “Shore Excursion”. New York, NY. 1943

Young Dancers c.1940s

Black burlesque dancer, Lotti the Body

Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly

Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly

Audrey & Fred dancing

Illustration to Life

I’ve spent way too much (like WAY TOO MUCH) time today looking at my pattern stash and vintage pinboards trying to make some matches. Fun!!! As much as I love the old fashioned illustrations, I like to see the clothes made up, too.

Here are some of the connections I made.

 Two Piece Ensembles

Models Cordie King and Alberta Culbreath model afternoon fashions for Ebony Fashion Fair in 1958.


Barbara Smith (right) and another model pose for the legendary Pittsburgh photographer, Charles “Teenie” Harris, backstage at a fashion show around 1969.

Simplicity 4018

Simplicity 4132

A-line skirts, blouses and knits.

Howard University theater students photographed in 1946 by LIFE magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

African American teenage girls c.1950′s

Simplicity 4676

Advance 9916

Simplicity 3117

40s Pants

Dorothy Dandridge rehearsing with composer, arranger and vocal coach extraordinaire Phil Moore in March 1951.

Three women, one wearing dark sweater with two daschund appliques, posed around a suitcase in front of brick building, 1940s.

Lauren Bacall

Simplicity 3223

40s Power Shoulders

Advance 4328