Spreading Knowledge

Spreading knowledge amongst the women of the world.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Black History Fashion: Zelda Wynn Valdes

Playboy Bunny Costume Designer

Happy Valentine's Day Loves! I hope you are spreading love and cheer to friends, family, your significant other, or all the above! This week for Black History, I talked about former model turned agent Ophelia DeVore. To continue on about African American agents and designers, this post is dedicated to fashion designer and costumer Zelda Wynn Valdes!
Photo Credit
Zelda Wynn Valdes (or Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes) was born on June 28 in 1905 in Pennsylvania. During the late forties, Wynn's sexy, hip-hugging gowns were worn by many famous celebrities such as Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Gladys Knight. She also designed for major figures like Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Because of Zelda's influence, actress/singer, Joyce Bryant had adapted to wearing skin-tight gowns, causing her career to take off in the 50's
Photo Credit|| Dorothy Dandridge
Photo Credit|| Joyce Bryant

In 1948, Wynn opened her own boutique in Manhattan (now Washington Heights on Broadway and West 158th Street). Her boutique, "Chez Zelda," made her the first African American to own a store on the streets of New York City. In 1949, Wynn became the president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers (NAFAD), which was an organization of black designers founded by Mary McLeod Bethune.

Wynn had also designed the costumes for Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1970, and around the 1960's, she designed the iconic Playboy Bunny costumes.
Photo Credit|| Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies on the cover of LIFE
Photo Credit|| Zelda Wynn worked with the Dance Theatre of Harlem for nearly thirty years, becoming the company's Matriarch.
Wynn had stayed with the dance company until 2001, the year she died at the age of 96. Her designs and influence showed that women shouldn't hide their figures, but embrace them!

Embrace Your Curves

Embrace Your Curves
Photo Credit|| Bustier, Maxi Skirt, Booties, Clutch, Multichain Necklace
Plunging necklines; hip hugging fabric; all the essentials a woman needed! Get the iconic look when you pair a plunging neckline bustier with a wrapped maxi skirt. Complete the look with ankle booties and a stylish clutch. Now, with so much bare neck, don't be afraid to accessorize. Try a multichain necklace that resembles the halter straps on Joyce's gown.

Little Cottontail

Given Halloween was four months ago, dressing up as a Playboy Bunny would be a little ridiculous at the moment. However, who said you can't still channel that look for the up coming spring season (or "Rabbit Season!") So, get the look by pair a bustier with high waist shorts. Bunny stockings are adorable when paired with gold flats. And though it may seem warm, keep covered up with a leather jacket.

That's all for now, loves! Happy V-Day!
~~ReneA P.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Black History Fashion: Ophelia DeVore

First African American Model who established on of the first Modeling Agency in America

Had a great weekend, loves? This week continuing on my Black History lessons, I will talk about African American designers and agents that helped pave the way for African American models. Our first agent is Ophelia DeVore!

Photo Credit
Ophelia DeVore was born on August 12 of 1922 in Edgefiled, South Carolina. She was one of ten children born to John Walter DeVore and Mary Emma Strother. She has German American and African American descent from her father side while her mother was a Black Indian (people of African American and Native American descent). Growing up, Ophelia's father taught her to communicate efficiently with people and her mother stressed the importance of proper education, appearance, and etiquette.

Ophelia began modelling at the age of 16 in 1938. Given she had a light skin-color, she passed for Norwegian, thus attaining many contracts throughout  Europe. Determined to create a market for non-white women in the US, DeVore established The Grace Del Marco Agency in 1946. Many household names, such as Helen Williams, Richard Roundtree, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson, began their careers at Grace Del Marco. Because of racism in the fashion business, the agency was more like a safe haven for non-white models.
Photo Credit|| Grace Del Marco Models
Many of the shows that the Grace Del Marco would hold took place in churches, on college campuses, and in ballrooms of the Diplomat and Waldorf-Astoria hotels. Much of DeVore's breakthrough and success took place in Europe, especially in the French fashion world (they were quite fascinated with black beauties!)

Ophelia was a hard worker. She was wanted to maintain her role as an activist for non-whites in the fashion world. She hosted for ABC's Spotlight on Harlem around the 1960's as a way to bring media into her fight for equality. Some of her other activist work was The Ophelia DeVore School of Charm was a school that educated young African women on etiquette, poise, posture, grooming, speech, ballet, and many other aspects that a woman should know. Faith Evans is one of the many notable graduates.

In 2004, Ophelia DeVore was honored by FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and the Fashion Arts Xchange, Inc. for her contributions to fashion and entertainment. She is currently the CEO and publisher of The Columbus Times Newspaper.

Poise and Elegance

Before she established her agency, Ophelia worked as a model, predominately with Ebony magazine. She was graceful, poised, elegant, and all around determined to make a change. An iconic look from the 1930's was the bathing suit, which was composed of either a one piece short jumpsuit or a cropped top and a highwaisted short or skort. Resemble this look when you pair a cropped top with a highwaist, skater skirt. I choose the color burgundy because berry colors are my favorite, and purple sometimes mean royal. Perfect for an elegant doll! Complete the look with simple, ankle strap heels and fun accessories, like this Pucker Up necklace by NastyGal and these adorable drop earrings!

Beauty Inspired

Beauty Inspired - Ophelia DeVore

Part of Ophelia's Charm School was to teach women how to apply makeup properly and to style their hair. Get a clean, fresh look when you dust your cheeks in powder foundation, lightly coat your lids with a shimmering gold, and curl your lashes with mascara. Don't forget to apply hair mousse for a elegant curls, and brush your hair with a wide brush to add a little more emphasis.

Until tomorrow, loves! Ciao!
~~ReneA P.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Black History Fashion: Fave Model ATM

This week I featured models that paved the way for African American models. As we come to an end of week one, my final post will be of someone I admire at the moment. For this week, my favorite model is Sessilee Lopez! Her career started in 2004 when she signed with IMG Models. She's currently signed with Major Model Management Worldwide. Standing at 5'10", she has walked for many designers, such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Lanvin, Shiatzy Chen, Karl Lagerfeld, etc. She appeared in campaigns for H&M, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Levi's, and many more! She's appeared in many international editorials like French Elle, Japanesse Vogue, Allure, Spanish Harper's Bazaar...the list just goes on and on!

Zac Posen Spring/Summer 2014 Ready-To-Wear

That's all for now, loves! Until next week!
~~ReneA P.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Black History Fashion: Donyale Luna

First African American Model featured on British Vogue

Our next fashion icon was a famous model and actress to be the first African American model featured on the cover of Vogue. However, like many victims during the 60's, fame and success involved drug use.

Donyale Luna was born on August 31, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. Her real name was Peggy Ann Freeman, though she had insisted that her biological father's surname was Luna. Donyale's mother was of Indigenous Mexican and Afro-Egyptian lineage, and whether or not it's true, Donyale claimed that her grandmother was an Irish actress who married a black interior decorator.

Growing up, she was a kooky child with a wild personality. While attending Cass Technical High School during her teen years, she studied journalism and was part of the school choir. She began to refer herself as Donyale during this time as well.
Photo Credit
Donyale was discovered by David McCabe, a British Fashion Photographer, who convinced her to pursue a modeling career in New York. She started off big, appearing on the cover of Harper's Bazaar in 1965. She then moved to London around the same time and appeared on the cover of British Vogue in March of 1966. Her career was taking off, especially considering the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was passed, giving more and more black models an opportunity.

Photo Credit|| The sketch used for the 1965 Harper's Bazaar cover

Photo Credit|| Donyale's Vogue shot
Donyale worked as an actress for a few of Andy Warhol's underground films, and was also seen as a benefactor of African American actrors. She had relationships with a few actors and photographers, including German actor, Klaus Kinski, and her widowed husband, Italian photographer Luigi Cazzaniga.

Featured in a New York Times profile, Donyale confessed for using drugs, such as LSD, stating that she enjoyed it. Her overuse of narcostics soon lead to her her downfall. In May 17, 1979, Donyale, age 32, died from an overdose of heroin while at a friend's house in Rome. Her early death left her husband with their 18 month old daughter, Dream, who for many years did not know anything about her mother.
Photo Credit|| Donyale with her husband, Luigi Cazzaniga

Sunny Days

Though Donyale may have passed away early in her life, she was still considered one kooky girl! She had an eccentric personality that could either brighten someone's day or wonder what the heck was wrong with her! In the 60's, fashion was all about prints and short dresses. Get this wild look when you pair a sleeveless mosaic shift dress with sandals. Complete the look with geometric drop earrings, "groovy" textured sunglasses, and a plain tote to match.

Beauty Inspired

Donyale claimed she had Afro-Egyptian linage, and like Egyptian makeup, the eyes are always dramatic. Use liquid liner to outline your lids, and use the pencil to color in any missed spots. For the nails, stick with something natural, yet bold, like white or pale.

Until next time loves!
~~ReneA P.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What's in the Bag: The Purse that Fits your Personality and Lifestyle

Recently, my good friend commented on my large tote, asking what exactly I had in it! She normally carries around a keychain with a tiny wallet, her keys, and her school ID, saying she would have no idea what to put in a purse I carry. So for this article, I'm analyzing what type of girl will carry around a certain bag. If the description fits you, here are a few fashion ideas!

1. A Victoria's Secret Tote Bag

According to my friend, Keller, a girl carrying this Victoria's Secret tote bag is "comfy, casual, chic, and someone who doesn't give a damn!" This bag is something you would carry to class, to the gym, or grocery shopping. Pair this gorge bag with a pair of leggings with leather sides, an oversize sweater, and sneaker wedges for an easy-edgy look. An outfit is never complete without accessories, so pair up a chain-wrap watch with a sideways cross necklace (bigger the better!) And even if you're running late, your hair should never be a mess, unless it's a chic messy ponytail! Sassy!

 2. Geo Print Wristlet

A girl who carries around a Geo Print Wristlet is a girl who's so chic and always hanging out with her buds. My best friend, Tanner, carries around a wristlet every time we hang out. She typical has a preppy chic look, composed of blazers, flat shoes, and simple patterns. Pair this wristlet with a pair of boyfriend jeans, tank, and contrast blazer. Boyfriend jeans always look great with pumps! But instead of platforms, try a pointy-toe. Finish the look off with a gold, bow necklace, and pyramid stud earrings.

3. Quilted Clutch

Clutches are a great way to go out and look gorgeous without leaving something at home (like your phone, lip gloss, keys). And a quilted bag is just perfect for a night out on the town! Pair it up with a sleek, halter dress and sandals. For those chilly nights, try a cobalt blazer. Complete the look with a high ponytail that will show off a great pair of gold hoops!

4. Call it Spring Buckbee Backpack

A girl carrying a backpack is typically heading off to school or out to a small gathering on the quad. Her style is simple, yet chic and trendy. Pair colored skinny jeans with a button-down blouse and classic TOMS. complete the look with a pair  of trendy Wayfarers and an owl pendant necklace (the wises animal of them all!)

So, what's in your bag, loves? Until next time!
~~ReneA P.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Black History Fashion: Helen Williams

First African American Model to Break into the Mainstream

Happy Black History Month to you loves! For the rest of this month, I will be posting articles about great African American men and women, as well as provide fashion inspiration. This week is all about African American Models. Our first icon is Helen Williams!

Photo Credit
Helen was born in East Riverton, New Jersey in 1937. As a child, she was fascinated and obsessed with clothing. She began sewing at the age of seven, creating her own garments. Goring up, she studied drama, dance, and art. She first worked in New York as a stylist for photo shoots before she began modeling around the age of seventeen. She was signed by model-turned-agent, Ophelia DeVore.
Photo Credit|| DeVore's mission was to present African American models "in a way that was not stereotyped" (Ebony).
During the 50's and 60's, fashion modeling for African Americans was a struggled. The industry typically excluded all non-white models from mainstream fashion. And sometimes, only light-skinned models were allowed. Even though Helen Williams was gorgeous and stunning, she was deemed too dark for the industry.

However, things were much different in France. When Williams moved to Paris around the 1960's, she modelled for many famous designers, such as Christian Dior and Jean Dessès. Black beauty held a much higher interest in France than in America. Thus Helen was able to work for around $7,500 a year. Similar to Josephine Baker, Helen received many marriage proposals by French admirers who "worship the ground [she walks] on," (Arogundade).

After moving back to America, things had not changed for dark-skinned models. As Helen searched for a new agent in New York City, she was determined and stubborned. After being rejected by one agency who claimed they already had a black model, Helen began a new cause, which grabbed the attention of journalists Dorothy Kilgallen and Earl Wilson. By writing about Helen's struggle and the problems African American models faced in the industry, Helen was offered jobs by Budweiser, Loom Togs, and Modess.

After fighting for equality for African American models, Williams became the first to break the four hundred chain that deemed dark skin as ugly. From seeing dark skin as simply "maid-like" in media and television, a new window was open for dark models, thus making Helen the first black, mainstream model!

Perfect in Paris

Helen Williams was a beautiful woman with great bone structure, lovely features, and an iconic style that any fashionista can replicate. Get her look when you pair a blouse with a flared skirt. Just tuck in the top and pull it back out just a bit to get that 50's/60's vibe. Complete the look with simple patent heels, gold knot earrings with crystals, and a gold cuff bracelet.

Beauty Inspired

Helen's iconic bouffant wig, sculpted brows, and giraffe-like neck was her signature look. Simply wet your hair and add about a dollop of hair mousse and style to get shiny, voluminous curls. The color of the lipstick you should use should be at least  one or two shades darker than your lips to get a glamorous feel. Lastly, coat your lashes, add liner, and sculpt your brows!

Ads featuring Helen!

Helen had a smile that could entrance her audience. She was featured in many ads, as well as modelled for Ebony and Jet magazine, two popular black magazines during her time!

Here's to a black beauty! Until next time, loves!
~~ReneA P.