Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

by Joy L. Bivins

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The exhibition, located in East Building’s Meymandi Exhibition Gallery, explores the 50-year history of the Ebony Fashion Fair (1958–2009), an unparalleled charity fashion show event that redefined the concepts of beauty, style, and empowerment for African Americans. A spectacle of glamour and performance, the traveling fashion show grew out of the pages of Ebony magazine (first published in 1945). Similar to the publication, the fashion event provided transformative images of African Americans as beautiful and successful. Far more than a display of fabulous clothes, the show offered black women a vision of what they could wear and, ultimately, who they could be. Featuring 40 stunning ensembles (gowns, coats, suits), the exhibition includes works by designers such as Stephen Burrows, Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Patrick Kelly, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Bob Mackie, Alexander McQueen, b. Michael, Missoni, Jean Patou, and Vivienne Westwood.

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