Friday, February 13, 2009

Vintage Photos of the Week

Today is the first day of NYC Fashion Week Fall '09, so it would only be appropriate to kick it off by paying homage to one of the pioneers of Black fashion, Dorothea Towles Church.

Ms. Church was the FIRST Black model to work for French couture designers in the 1950s. Her career began at Christian Dior in 1949, as a replacement for one of Mr. Dior's models. From there, she went on to grace the fashion showrooms and runways for couturiers Pierre Balmain, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath and Robert Piguet.

“If you’re beautiful, they don’t care what color you are,” [Ms. Church] said of the French, describing her days in the couture salons and nights in postwar Paris.

“I got invited out all the time,” she said in Barbara Summers’s 1998 book “Black and Beautiful.” “I was the only black model in Europe and I just thought I was an international person.” (Source:

Upon returning to the U.S., Ms. Church organized her own fashion couture shows, using her sizable collection of couture pieces she amassed during her modeling days in Europe. Working with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Ms. Church toured the country bringing never-before-seen fashion to the masses. In Barbara Summer's Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry, Ms. Church says, “I feel that my going all over America with my show had a great influence on American black women dressing differently and feeling good about themselves...I saw them dressing more creatively, more internationally. They could say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too.’"

No comments: