Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remembering the Black Fashion Museum

Collection Will Reemerge as Part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Black Fashion Museum was founded in 1979 by Lois Alexander Lane in a Harlem brownstone. Lane was a dedicated fundraiser and curator, and managed to expand her wealth of culturally and socially significant artifacts for nearly 30 years. In 1994, the museum moved to Washington, DC where Lane eventually established it in a one hundred year old row house at 2007 Vermont Ave, NW - just around the corner from the Humanities Council. After Lane's death, her daughter Joyce Bailey sought to continue her mother's efforts to expand the organization's collection and reach, but the cache of dresses, coats, hats, and other garments designed and sewn by slaves, famed Hollywood designers, Civil Rights leaders, and First Ladies' seamstresses, had begun to outgrow the Vermont Avenue facility. In 2007 Bailey donated the important collection of Americana to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

This episode of Humanities Salon honors Anne Lowe, a noted African American clothing designer who created Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's iconic wedding dress in 1953. It was filmed at the Black Fashion Museum in 2002, and includes several notable panelists including Lowe's great granddaughter and Washington Post fashion editor Robin Ghivan. Ghivan wrote an outstanding article on the Black Fashion Museum and its important, yet overlooked, collection in 2007, as it was moved to the secure and climate-controlled facilities of the Smithsonian.

The National Museum of African American History and culture is scheduled to open in 2015.

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