The Fashion and Race Database provides an accessible, academic treatment to one of fashion’s most critical topics facing us today.

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from the library

Fashion and Enslavement

Although fashion may not be the most intuitive lens through which to understand the nuances of slavery, it is deeply woven into the historical realities of the lives of enslaved people. While fashion was indeed used as a tool of hegemonic control, it was also a critical site of resistance, radical self-expression, survival, and liberation. Explore our collection of sources that address fashion and enslavement.

Water color styled title page (pink, blue, and green)
Image credit: Winslow Homer. Dressing for the Carnival, 1877. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Through the Gaultier Glass: Couture, Colonialism and Cultural Appropriation

“Through the looking glass” is a metaphorical expression—albeit, a commonly misunderstood one; it means “on the strange side; in the twilight zone; in a curious, parallel world.” Today, we step through a different type of glass: the Gaultier glass. 

Fashion as Armor

The need to wear a face mask, a now vital accessory to shield ourselves and others for the purpose of public health, is the newest phase and symbol of fashion’s intimate relationship to our bodies and lives.

Ranavalona III: The Last Queen of Madagascar

The story of Ranavalona III (1861-1917), the last of the Malagasy queens, and the last monarch of the island nation of Madagascar, is punctuated by complex negotiations of power and colonial hegemony.


The huipil is a blouse-like garment worn by women in Mesoamerica since at least 2,000 years ago. The name huipil derives from the Nahuatl word “huipilli,” used by the Aztecs to denote this garment.

The Kiondo

The Kiondo is traditionally a round, striped, woven sisal and leather strapped basket, made and used by Agikuyu women from central Kenya, to carry out daily domestic tasks.


Adire is a type of textile originating among the Yoruba indigenous people from the Southwestern states in Nigeria. In Yoruba, the word Adire translates as (adi) “to tie” and (re) “to dye.”

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Image: Josephine Baker performing in Amsterdam in 1960, Photograph by Harry Pot

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