Evolution of Fashion

Evolution of Fashion

By: Ms. J

The evolution of fashion in the black community has provided a diverse way for many to express themselves, their ideas and beliefs.  As the month of February winds down, I’d like to take this time to honor a woman who made a major fashion contribution to African American history.

Ever wondered who was the first black fashion designer?



Zelda Wynn Valdes (1905-2001) was the first black fashion designer. Her designs have graced many celebrities such as Dorothy Dandridge, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt and more. During the late 1940s-50s, the popular trend at that time was Christian Dior’s “New Look”; which consisted of mid length full skirt and fitted bodices. She slowly ushered in a new trend of fitted low cut dresses that accentuated rather than hid a women’s curves. Her designs even caught the eye of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, who commissioned her to design the signature Playboy Bunny costumes. I am sure that as she was designing these costumes, she would have never thought that it would be a template for future performers to use as their stage costume such as Rihanna, Beyonce, etc.


Notable Achievements:

1. In 1948, “Chez Zelda,” her boutique was opened on Broadway in New York City.

2. New York Chapter President of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designer (NAFAD).

3. In 1970, Head Costume Designer of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

4. Game Changer in Fashion.


Learn more at:



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