Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair was a costume exhibition that debuted at the Chicago History Museum in March 2013. The project explored and examined the history and impact of Ebony Fashion Fair, a traveling fashion show produced by Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company from 1958 until 2009. This paper identifies the curatorial vision for the exhibition by identifying the project’s concept, major goals, and themes. Inspiring Beauty featured more than sixty ensembles by some of the most recognizable names in mid- to late-twentieth-century fashion. In this way, it mirrored the traveling show’s objective to bring the best in international fashion to its audiences. The exhibition, however, explored more than stellar fashion—it attempted to reveal the fashion show’s power to deeply resonate with the African American women who comprised the majority of its audience. Through the Ebony Fashion Fair, Johnson Publishing Company brought exclusive design into very public spaces and featured it on black bodies. The traveling show reiterated the publishing company’s project of featuring the best in black life, and it used fashion, beauty, and glamour to accomplish that end.