Women’s Herstory Month

Women’s Herstory Month

The month of March is National Women’s History Month. As we enter into this month we look back on the women in history who changed it for the better yet rarely receive the recognition they deserve. In an industry like fashion there are masses of women who have worked as seamstresses, stylists, photographers, designers etc - and yet only a few have made it to the top. The most well known designers and CEO’s of mass fashion brands and luxury goods conglomerates are men. Very few women make it to the top. We want to recognize women who have faced barriers and do not/ have not received the recognition they deserve.

Pictured here is Zelda Wynn Valdes draping a dress she was creating. Image retrieved from The New York Times. 

Zelda Wynn Valdes

Zelda Wynn Valdes was a fashion designer and costumer, dressing the likes of famous women from Josephine Baker to Ella Fitzgerald. She started her fashion career in the 1920s working under her uncle who owned a tailoring shop and became the first black sales clerk, eventually opening her own boutique called Chez Zelda which made this designer the first black woman to own a store on Broadway in Manhattan.

Pictured here are four models wearing the infamous playboy bunny costume co-designed by Valdes. Image retrieved from HuffPost.  

Valdes was known for her elegantly feminine curve hugging silhouettes, and custom dresses and gowns worn by the stars. True to her style Zelda and her custom fitted creations dabled in an out of costume and custom gowns. Valdes aided with ballet costumes but the most infamous costume she worked on was her collaboration with Hugh Hefner to make the iconic Playboy bunny suit. Valdez went on to lead the National association of Fashion and Accessory Designers which aided and uplifted the work of other black designers and costumers.

Picture of Claire McCardell. Retrieved from Seamwork. 

Claire McCardell 
Claire McCardell was an influential womenswear designer. McCardell graduated from Parsons in 1928 and studied in Paris training under French Houses. She later turned away from the luxury industry because she knew American women needed comfortable, and flattering garments for the post-war future. World War II divided Europe and America resulting in America’s fashion industry finding their own voice rather than copying or being inspired by the french fashion industry.

Pictured here is McCardell sitting in the centre with her infamous womenswear designs surrounding her. Image retrieved from Seamwork.

McCardell was inspired by what women needed resulting in the creation of coordinated separates; this was a more comfortable clothing alternative, still chic but made out of utilitarian material which was uncommon for the time. McCardell is best known for her wrap dresses, Popover Dress and her mix and match separates which were uncommon in the 1930s. What Claire McCardelll did for womenswear with the creation of casual chic American dressing went on to inspire many American designers through the likes of Anna Sui, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

Pictured here is Ann Lowe. Image retrieved from The Vintage Women Magazine.

Ann Lowe
Ann Lowe was born in Alabama and began her career at a segregated design school where she was taught in a room alone and away from her white peers. She then went on to work under brand names on a commission basis; designing and creating dresses for famous actresses but was always under the name of the brand she was working under. Due to the lack of credit she was receiving, she opened her own atelier in NYC which was an immediate success and attracted New York’s elite.

Pictured here is Ann Lowe doing a fitting for a wedding dress. Retrieved from Brides.com

Her signature motifs were fine handwork and signature flowers. Her designs were worn by the likes of the Rockefellers and Roosevelet’s. Her most infamous design was Jackie O’s wedding dress that she designed and created for Jackie O’s marriage to John F Kennedy. Shockingly enough her name was not mentioned in the design and creation of Jackie O’s wedding dress until post assassination of Kennedy. Lowe, known for undercharging her wealthy clients went on to declare bankruptcy in 1963 after having the removal of her eye due to glaucoma. She soon retired in 1972.

In the month of March we remember all the women who have played and continue to play significant roles in the fashion industry, yet whose contributions are regularly forgotten or underappreciated. We recognize the designers, seamstresses, tailors, cutters, and everyone in between for the work they have done and continue to do.

Miriam Baker is proud to bring you this blog post. We design clothes for women with fuller busts in the heart of downtown Toronto. If you would like to learn more about the brand and the designer behind it, read Meet the Designer for more insight, or sign up to our newsletter for new drops, offers and events. Please contact us at info@miriam-baker.com with any stories of your own that are pertinent to our mission or connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. We would love to hear from you! 

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