Women’s history has not always been inclusive. So, it’s important to highlight the stories of women of color. Black and Brown voices are part of the fabric of American society and women’s history.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Upscale Magazine is celebrating the accomplishments of females in the arts and fashion. There are MANY more influential women that could and should be listed here, but in the interest of space, we have only listed some and vow to cover this topic again in future posts. Let’s face it …we have lots to brag about!
Why do we celebrate Women’s History Month?
We celebrate Women’s History Month to remind ourselves of the accomplishments of women to our culture and society. From fashion to politics, many trailblazing women have led the way for change.
What are some key dates during Women’s History Month?
- The first major march on Washington by suffragists happened on March 3, 1913.
- The National Woman’s Party, dedicated to women’s voting rights, was formed in March 1917.
- Title IX was passed on March 1, 1972.
- The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in the Senate on March 22, 1972.
What is this year’s Women’s History Month theme?
“Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”
Women in Fashion
Beginning with France’s earliest known designer, Rose Bertin (creator of Marie Antoinette Queen of France coronation dress) and the steady succession of female designers to follow, fashion has always been an industry where female talent could flourish.
Let’s look at some great black and brown women who broke the glass ceiling:
Born in Alabama in 1899, Ann Lowe moved to New York at age 16. She attended design school and eventually opened a shop on Madison Avenue. Her clients included members of the Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, and Rockefeller families. She made more than 1,000 dresses per year for clients and sold her designs in Henri Bendel and Neiman Marcus. In 1953, Lowe designed dresses for the mother of the bride and the bridal dress for the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy, a most photographed event in history. Unfortunately, Lowe did not receive the credit she deserved for these famous gowns.
Zelda Wynn Valdes opened her own shop on Broadway in New York in 1948. She was known for her sexy hip-hugging styles and outfitted many notable black women of that era including Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Marian Anderson and Ella Fitzgerald. Little known to many, her work even caught the eye of Hugh Hefner, who commissioned her to design the original and most popular costumes for the Playboy bunnies. She also helped found the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers, an organization of black designers.
This week’s feature highlights a woman leading by example and living by her own rules.
An instrumental figure in the Atlanta creative industry, Angela Watts is an award-winning marketing and communications (marcom) executive and founder of RAGTRADE ATLANTA/Atlanta Fashion Week (ATLFW), and a founding member of CFDA Connects.
Through RAGTRADE Atlanta, Watts helps maintain the official fashion week calendar in Atlanta and orchestrates the production of the biannual fashion shows. Cited as one of the fastest growing fashion events within the south, both Ragtrade and Atlanta Fashion Week have gained significant domestic and international coverage and have helped enhance the careers of budding designers and creatives.
Working through Ragtrade Atlanta, Angela launched many other projects including Global Runway, a marketing program that successfully merged fashion and aviation through a unique brand experience that highlighted the diverse fashion, lifestyle and beauty options offered at ATL. Since its initial launch, Global Runway has increased retail profits by millions and garnered brand impressions globally.
Watts also works closely with government leaders through her role as a founding member of CFDA Connects; a program that recognizes, promotes, and provides business development support to select Regional Fashion Organizations (RFOs), their Fashion Weeks and the designers based within these US markets.
Watts has served on the board of Fashion Group International and Black Public Relations Society of Atlanta (BPRS). Currently, she is a board member with the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF).
What is Angela’s wish for the future of fashion in Atlanta?
Simply…for Atlanta to become the next great fashion capital.
Website: www.ragtradeatlanta.com | Instagram: @ragtradeatlanta
Women’s history hasn’t always included the voices or contributions of women of color. However, we can change this by ensuring that Black female fashion leaders receive our support as did Zelda Wynn Valdes from black stars such as Josephine Baker, and like emerging tastemakers do with Angela Watts and others.
Without the contributions of trailblazers like Ms. Watts, the fashion sector would look very different than it does today.