CHIC Fancy Black History Through Fashion and Style: Arthur Smith

A finishing touch to any look is very important and we all choose to display this is various ways. Some may choose a hair style to finish their look, the perfect make up or hand bag. However, the most popular way to complete a look is with the perfect piece of complementing jewelry. So to all my connoisseurs of beautiful pieces of jewelry, please meet Arthur Smith.

Arthur Smith is credited to be the first successful black jewelry designer.

The modernist jeweler combined his love for jewelry making and jazz and created some of the most beautiful jewelry of its time. He created pieces for many famous singers including  the late great Duke Ellington. Arthur Smith was known for large-scale, lightweight jewelry made of copper, silver, gold and finished with semi-precious stones. He opened his very own shop in 1946 in Greenwich Village and thrived in the business through the 1970’s. Each piece of jewelry had the creativity of his artistry and the sophistication of a carefully crafted jazz piece. Many have tried to duplicate his work but have fallen short of mastering his insanely talented techniques. Catch a glimpse of some of his one of a kind pieces below:

Talent off the charts! Thank you Arthur Smith for your contributions to our black history, I appreciate you!

Peace Love Fashion,

Dominique

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CHIC Fancy Black History Through Fashion and Style: Dorothea Towles Church

I am a loyal reader of various fashion magazines. I love flipping through the pages, reading the various articles and fashion tips, but most importantly seeing the most beautiful clothes and the gorgeous women that wear them oh so well. Although the representation of african american models can be quite scarce, I can still get a glimpse of some of the cocoa brown beauties that have the opportunity to grace the pages and the runways of major publications and fashion houses. That is certainly more than I can say for my ancestors before me. Seeing a black face on the runways or inside the magazine issues were unheard of until the beautiful Dorothea Towles Church gracefully made her way into an industry, that at the time saw no place for her kind beauty.

Dorothea Towles Church became the first successful black model in Paris is the 1950’s.

Mrs. Church originally set out to become in actress, however after noticing the discrimination black actresses faced in Hollywood she decided to enroll at the Dorothy Farrier Charm and Modeling School in Los Angeles, where she is also noted to be the first black student. She appeared in fashion shows and publications that were catered to african american audiences but yearned for more. Dorothea traveled with her sister to attend the Fisk choir concerts in Paris in 1949. She went out on a limb and tried out for a few modeling assignments and was hired on the spot by Christian Dior. She experienced so much success in Paris that she decided not to return to the United States until 1954. In which she embarked on a black college tour to showcase her very own couture line that served as a fundraiser for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Dorothea Towles Church later signed a modeling contract with Grace del Marco Agency in New York City.

“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.They could say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too.'”- Dorothea Towles Church 

Glamorous, gorgeous and worthy! Thank you Dorothea Towles Church for never letting go of your dreams and opening the door for all of the diverse beauties all over the world.

Thank you for your contribution to our black history, I appreciate you!

Peace Love Fashion,

Dominique

CHIC Fancy Black History Through Fashion & Style: Zelda Wynn Valdes

Today marks the first day of Black History Month! Hope you’re excited, because I sure am. We all know that the fashion industry is one of the hardest industries to break in to. It can be brutal to say the least, but there have been many successful people who have broken barriers through design, beauty, innovation and style.

Meet Zelda Wynn Valdes, the first african american fashion designer and costumer to open a black owned shop on Broadway in 1948.

Known for her sexy sophisticated styles, Ms. Valdes became the go to designer for the stars. She dressed the likes of Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Sarah Vaughn, Marian Anderson, Joyce Bryant and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few.  Setting the standard for glamorous gowns and flawless silhouettes she caught the eye of the legendary Hugh Hefner and designed the very first playboy bunny costumes.

Amoung the contributions of memorable pieces, Zelda Wynn Valdes also helped establish the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers, that has inspired many to pursue careers in the fashion industry. In her later years she designed costumes for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and supervised the wardrobe department into her 90’s. Below are a few pictures of some of Ms. Valdes’s designs:

Joyce Bryant

Marian Anderson

Dorothy Dandridge

Playboy Bunny

Joyce Bryant

Mae West

Joyce Bryant

An extraordinarily talented woman indeed!

Thank you Ms. Zelda Wynn Valdes for your CHIC Fancy contributions to our black history, I appreciate you!

Peace Love Fashion,

Dominique