Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced – A Handmaker’s Factory Review

A curator’s job must be so difficult. Deciding which bits of a vast history, body of work or era to include sounds immensely challenging. Perhaps, that is what makes it all the more impressive, and rewarding, when the job is done well. When I planned my visit to the Stephen Burrows exhibit on display at the Museum of the City of New York, I expected to see beautiful clothes arranged in an artful setting. But, both Mr. Burrows work and the museum met, and far exceeded, that expectation!

The very first thing you see when you enter the space that houses this collection is a massive photo of Grace Jones, outfitted in Burrows’ clothes.

This image immediately sets the tone for the liveliness, beauty and attitude of the entire exhibit. Burrows’ work is an explosion of color, pattern, texture and, most of all, movement. Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, is appropriately named.

The designer’s evolution is clear and the way the exhibit has been arranged encourages you to view the pieces in the order of that evolution. Positioned just after Ms. Jones are several sketches. An introduction of sorts.

Leather, fringe, fur, glamour give way to jersey, silk chiffon, sequins, glamour. Even a coat made of wool felt drapes in such a way as to appear weightless. I was also struck by how body conscious and sleek many of the pieces were while still remaining fun and elegant. Quite the accomplishment.

Taking it all in as one evokes a feeling that Iman succinctly sums up:

Even the room is cloaked in billowy fabric, carrying the movement from the clothing up the walls to the ceiling.

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The sparse color of the ceiling, background and platforms create the perfect backdrop for this color explosion. The deep ebony mannequins setting them off in a way that any other color just couldn’t do. Their posture communicating self assurance, elegance, class, playfulness, sex appeal.

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Stephen Burrows continues to enjoy a thriving career and made a splash at the opening ceremony for the exhibit. It’s so wonderful to see someone receive their honors and accolades during their lifetime. To have the chance to see the impact that their influence has had on their industry. What an amazing privilege.

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It’s thrilling to see him smile and mingle with those whose careers mirror his own rise. Iman, Bethann Hardison, and more of the African American glitterati gathered to reminisce with him and show that they still look fabulous in his clothes. This exhibition is just one in a long line of retrospectives, documentary films, awards and fashion milestones. After more than 45 years in the fashion business, he can also add to his list of distinctions the honor of styling for a range that includes collector edition Barbie dolls and the First Lady of the United States.

His continued success and growth into a fashion mogul that has prospered with the times, he’s on Twitter AND Instagram creating his own buzz about his work, makes me think of his contemporaries (like Jaxson and Kelly) who did not live to do the same.  With a few of his vintage pieces for sale on Etsy and Ebay, including sewing patterns(!!) and invitations from the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to present his collections in Paris, make me hopeful for more of his work for years to come.

IMG_7993This review originally appeared on Handmaker’s Factory.
Thanks, again, to Nichola for making the arrangements for me!

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.

Black & Vintage

I have been so inspired by vintage fashion and imagery, lately. More than I ever thought I would be. Between my recent pattern haul, and my near addiction to vintage fashion blogs, I feel like vintage is all around me. But, like anything that one becomes interest in, you start to notice trends and patterns in what you’re absorbing. I had become increasingly aware of the dearth of black & vintage imagery in my diet. I knew that the material was out there. I had come across this flickr account, the Of Another Fashion movement and some fantastic stuff while browsing Pinterest.

But, shouldn’t there be more? Blacks were around during the entire history of the United States. Where were the images that represent that reality? I have seen enough images from slavery, and other important historical times like the civil rights movement, to last a lifetime. I’ve seen Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge and Josephine Baker dressed to the nines in any number of publicity stills. But where are the images of the average, stylish black people over the years? Where are we dressed in the styles we see in vintage pattern images? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to find more sources, lately. I’d LOVE to find a blog, or thirty, so if any of you know of one, shout it out in the comments!!

In the meantime, here are some of my current favorites!


It makes me SO happy to see people who look like me wearing the styles that I have come to enjoy!! You can visit this Pinterest board for more!