Friday, January 23, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

This is a photo of contralto Marian Anderson singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Easter Sunday1939. I chose this particular picture because of the momentous events that occurred this week. Watching President Barack H. Obama speak at the We Are One concert that was held at the Lincoln Memorial last Sunday, as well as him being sworn in as the first African American President of the United States, evoked images of Ms. Anderson's historical performance.

Prohibited by the Daughters of the American Revolution from singing at Constitution Hall because of her race, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt -- a member of DAR -- arranged for Ms. Anderson to have her very own concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Mrs. Roosevelt
resigned from the organization because of the racist snub.

The 1939 documentary film of this historical moment, Marian Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert was selected by The United States National Film Registry for preservation.

For more information on Ms. Anderson, check out The Marian Anderson Historical Society website.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

At Last, First Fashion

The "What Will Michelle Wear?" guessing game is over and the winners are....... Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu!

For the daytime activities of the Inaugural Celebration, First Lady Michelle Obama wore an elegant ensemble by designer Isabel Toledo, accessorized with olive green leather gloves from J. Crew and matching Jimmy Choo pumps.

NY Times fashion columnist, Cathy Horyn interviewed the Cuban-American designer who described the outfit as a lemongrass-yellow coat and matching dress, made of Swiss wool lace, backed with netting for warmth and lined in French silk.
“I wanted to pick a very optimistic color, that had sunshine,” she said. “I wanted her to feel charmed, and in that way would charm everybody.” Ms. Toledo sounded overwhelmed. “This is so wonderful,” she said.
Ms. Toledo didn't know until this morning that the First Lady chose her design. Her husband and business partner, Ruben Toledo told
"We're levitating - we really are," Ruben Toledo said minutes after watching Michelle Obama on CNN in an ensemble by his wife Isabel.

"We had no idea. We hoped she would wear something because she has bought Isabel's clothes before. We never know what's going to happen," he said.

"It's just another shock, but a great shock."

However, the biggest anticipation of the day was the Inaugural Gown selection, and First Lady Michelle didn't disappoint, choosing a beautiful ivory chiffon gown adorned with organza flowers, silver thread embroidery and Swarovski crystals. The design was created especially for her by 26 yr old up and coming designer, Jason Wu. The New York based designer, who WSOIC! predicted would be the lucky winner in the Inaugural designer lottery, didn't know that Mrs. Obama would wear his design until she and her husband, President Barack Obama, stepped on stage for their first dance at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. In fact, Mr. Wu never met the first lady, working on the dress based on measurements that were sent to him by Chicago boutique owner, Ikram Goldman. NY Magazine reports:
"I wanted to design a gown that would highlight her best features. I wanted to say something about who she is," Wu said. "I see her as a powerful, energetic, incredible woman. I wanted the gown to have a dreamlike quality because it's pretty surreal."

Although most of the fashion focus was on Mrs. Obama, the First Daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama (affectionately known as the "weeMichelles" in the blogosphere) made fashion statements of their own. Both girls were decked out in beautiful, brightly colored outfits from Crewcuts For Kids, J.Crew's children's line. Malia wore a double-breasted deep periwinkle blue coat, accented with a black scarf and blue velvet ribbon belt. Little Miss Sasha donned a deep coral dress under her sweet guava coat, vivid orange scarf and glove set. The look was finished off with a velvet orange belt. Both outfits were especially made for the Obama girls and are presently not available for purchase.

As we can see, bright colors and unknown designers were a theme for the Obamas' fashion choices. I think that fits in well with the Obamas and the journey they, and our country, are about to embark upon. They are a symbol of optimism and renewal, as we face unknowns and challenges in the next four years.

Congratulations President Barack H. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. May God Bless you, your family and our country.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

One thing I love about surfing the internet is that you never know what gems you'll find. The above is a picture of singer/actress Ja'net DuBois hookin' up the 'fro of fellow actress, Clarice Taylor. As you all may know, Ms. DuBois played the fabulous Willona Woods on Good Times, and she sang "Movin' On Up", the theme song to the TV show, The Jeffersons.

You all may recognize Ms. Taylor. She played Anna Huxtable, Bill Cosby's mother in The Cosby Show. She is the co-founder of American Negro Theatre and a founding member of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Desirée Rogers Featured in the February. Issue of Vogue!

Photographed by Jonathan Becker/

Heads up, fashionistas! Chi-town's most fabulous socialite, and the new White House Social Secretary, Desirée Rogers is featured in the February issue of Vogue magazine! The issue comes out on Jan. 20th, coincidentally the same day that we inaugurate Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States!

In the article, Ms. Rogers talks with writer William Norwich about her new job and what it entails. For those who can't wait until Jan. 20th, here's a sneak peek courtesy of

On her duties as White House Social Secretary:

The mandate the Obamas have given her, Rogers said, "is about instilling pride." Her job "is helping people visualize what the Obama presidency is about, the feelings Americans voted for—inclusion, transparency, embracing people you might never otherwise learn about—and also translating the splendor, that sweetness, that comfort of the White House to everyone." She paused and smiled. "Enormous task."

Indeed, in these troubled economic times, how exactly will the Obamas revitalize the White House? "Using the assets already there," Rogers said. "We have to be balanced. People think that being 'social' means hosting a lavish party, but that's not true. We all thrive on social interaction, and we must continue to," despite the economy.....

On being the "Life of the Party:

Rogers is a lot of fun—in fact, back in the Windy City, she was often described as "the life of the party." But she isn't the least bit concerned that all the White House protocol and attendant offstage orchestrations will put a damper on her effervescent spirit. "I get great joy seeing people being entertained," she explained. "The joy for me will be the moment before they arrive, making certain we have created a great environment for the Obamas and their guests. I'll have more fun watching than being in the party."
You can read more here.

I'm so looking forward to reading this article. I've been of fan of Ms. Rogers since I read about her in Vogue back in 2004. She is one the chicest sistas on the scene, so effortlessly put together. I wish nothing but the best for Ms. Rogers. She will definitely bring elegance and class back to the White House. Get 'em, girl!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Dear Town & Country........Your Response Stinks!"

Now that the holidays are over, I was finally able to catch a breath this weekend and catch up on my magazines. I look forward to reading all of my mags, but this time I was particularly interested in reading the "In Your Own Words..." (their reader mail) section of the Jan '09 issue of Town & Country. Let me explain......

In the Nov. '08 issue of T&C, Holly Peterson wrote an essay entitled, "First and Foremost" in their "Social Graces" column. The essay's premise was to give advice to the then potential First Ladies, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. It was supposed to be neutral, but it was anything but. It came across as putting Mrs. McCain on a pedestal, exalting her charity work and professional life, while reprimanding Mrs. Obama as if she were a child that needed to be "warned" to act appropriately in public.

Take, for example, the list of "tips" offered by Ms. Peterson:

Tips for Cindy McCain
  • Let your own personality and experience shine. You have a lot to teach us.
  • Your clothes are elegant and lovely, but find yourself a signature style. Loosen up a tad.
  • Draw on your career of giving back to motivate others to do the same.
  • Show the nation that the Republicans still know how to entertain with great glamour.
  • As a mother with children in the military, help us come together to support our troops.
Tips for Michelle Obama
  • Trust your fashion instincts. You are well on your way to finding a timeless signature look.
  • Be careful of popping off when your guard is down. Sharpen your internal editor.
  • Let the nation watch your children frolic on the White House grounds. It's been forty years since children so young lived in that home.
  • Highlight your race only when it's highly relevant or serves to deepen a discussion.
  • As a mother who has also had a full-fledged career, talk to us often about career and family. (1)
"Be careful of popping off...."? "Highlight your race only when it's highly relevant...."? Is this a joke?

But wait! There's more!

In the essay, Ms. Peterson writes:
Michelle Obama, aged forty-four, was raised in a working-class family on the segregated South Side of Chicago and ended up with prestigious degrees from Princeton and Harvard. (1)
Ended up? How about she EARNED those degrees, Ms. Peterson.
Unlike her husband, who is half Kenyan and half white American, Michelle is 100 percent African-American. As she tackles issues she cares about, she will have to make very careful choices about how, when and if she injects her ethnicity and upbringing into her platform as First Lady Her comment "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country" offended a lot of people because they saw how much good fortune America had bestowed on both her and her husband over so many years. (1)
That paragraph sounds like Caucasianese for "You people, especially you gal, better watch your mouth! You Negroes should be grateful for what white folks have done for you!".

And I'm not the only one who got that impression, which brings me to the "In Your Own Words" section of the Jan. '09 issue of T&C I mentioned earlier. Apparently, A LOT of people wrote them to complain about the essay. Here's T&C's response:

We received a number of letters regarding "First and Foremost," Holly Peterson's November "Social Graces" column. Written weeks in advance of the election, long before Barack Obama's history-making victory, the piece sought to strike a balance in offering suggestion on life in the White House to then potential First Ladies Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain --- without endorsing or criticizing either. Still, some admirers of Michelle Obama felt it did otherwise. One wrote: "The author's suggestion to Michelle Obama to 'highlight her race only when it's highly relevant or serves to deepen a discussion' was inappropriate and racist. Peterson did not suggest that Cindy McCain 'highlight' her race only when 'highly relevant.'... Being an African-American is not like putting on a costume you take off when it is convenient." Another said: "While reading the piece I nearly choked on the line about 'the good fortune America has bestowed on both her and her husband,' referring to Michelle Obama.... She is entitled to everything she and her family have worked hard to achieve."

For the record, at T&C we pride ourselves on celebrating the achievements of people of all backgrounds and experiences, and certainly Michelle Obama, our new First Lady, is someone we look forward to covering in the years to come.
I'm sorry but this response stinks. First, it appears that they tried to reduce the complaints they received as merely from "admirers of Michelle Obama". This gives the impression that we're a bunch of awestruck fan club members that think Mrs. Obama can do nothing wrong. Secondly, where is the apology? I was always taught that when you make a mistake, you acknowledge the mistake, correct it and apologize. Sorry, T&C but steps 2 and 3 are missing. It doesn't matter that Ms. Peterson "sought to strike a balance..." in her essay. It doesn't matter that she wrote the essay "weeks in advance". What matters is that your readers think she did not "strike a balance" and were offended by her piece, therefore an apology should have accompanied the response. PERIOD.

I'm disappointed in T&C. I've always appreciated that they strived to be more inclusive, and acknowledge that African-Americans enjoy reading about luxury, live luxurious lifestyles and have attain powerful positions in society. So, it's puzzling that they would allow an essay that insinuates that an educated, intelligent woman like Mrs. Obama, who has worked hard to get where she is, is some kind of affirmative action recipient who needs to mind her manners.

We shall overcome.....double standards.

(1) Peterson, Holly. 2008. "First and Foremost." Town & Country 162, no. 5342: 182-184.

(2) Brodsky, Sheldon, Jeanne Staves, and Tina Lustig. 2009. "In Your Own Words…." Town & Country 163, no. 5344: 18-18.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

Reception in the Office of the C. J. Walker Company, 1929
James VanDerZee
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gift of The James VanDerZee Institute, 1970

One of my favorite photographers of the Harlem Renaissance Era is the late James VanDerZee. His work was more than photography, it was art. Not only was he a photographer, but he was a keeper of the record of Black life, producing the most comprehensive collection of Black images during the period. I loved the way he captured the dignity, class and style of Black people at a time when that image of Black people was rarely seen.

The above photo was taken by Mr. VanDerZee c. 1929. It shows a group of fabulous, well-heeled sistas attending a reception in the office of Madam C.J. Walker's C. J. Walker Company.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Guessing Game: What Will Michelle Obama Wear?

(Photo: Annie Leibowitz/ Vogue)

Since the nation elected Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008, there has been one question that has been on the minds of fashionistas worldwide ----

What will our soon-to-be First Lady, Michelle Obama, wear on Inauguration Day?

Last month, Women's Wear Daily requested several big name fashion designers to send in sketches showing their ideas for this historic day. Not to be left out, asked several CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund designers to give their visions. Noticing her preference for wearing pieces by Thakoon and Jason Wu during the campaign season, the folks at Vogue have a hunch that Mrs. Obama will choose a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund designer.

Here are a couple of the Vogue commissioned design ideas that stuck out the most to me:

Alexander Wang


The rest of the designs can be found here: Runway To Change

The Wang piece is simply inappropriate for the Inaugural Ball, and it just doesn't fit with Mrs. Obama's style -- sleek, sophisticated elegance.

I really like the Marchesa design. It fits very well with the Michelle Obama style aesthetic. Good job!

Personally, I would love to see our future First Lady in a Kevan Hall design, or a Carmen Marc Valvo creation, but I think she will ultimately go with Jason Wu for her inaugural gown and Maria Pinto for her day outfit.

Well, we won't have long to wait -- 13 Days To Go and counting until Change We Can Believe In!