One mannequin wore a psychedelic pantsuit and top hat slashed by a baby-blue belt. Another mannequin sported paint-smeared black sweats and a collared, cascading, orange-satin robe. These two outfits were inspired respectively by Grace Jones, the Jamaican-American actress, supermodel and Grammy-winning singer, and Iman, the Somalian fashion model noted for her pioneering work in ethnic-cosmetics.
The outfits constitute only a fraction of those on display as part of the exhibition “Black Beauty, Glitz and Glamour,” a fashion and photography show on view at the South Dallas Cultural Center (SDCC). This exhibit highlights the beauty and accomplishments of black, female celebrities.
“Historically, African-American women have rarely been the subject of discussion around beauty, style and fashion in general. This was an opportunity to address that discrepancy and highlight their accomplishments,” said John Spriggins, the general manager of the SDCC.
Designers and fashion stylists Patrick Wright and Pucci Lisenbee organized and curated the exhibit. Wright and Lisenbee integrated photographs, text and clothing to portray the marginalized beauty of African-American women and illustrate their accomplishments.
The photographs were sourced from the archives of the African American Museum at Fair Park and the outfits were designed by Wright and Lisenbee themselves.
Each outfit was seemingly inspired by a particular black, female entertainer or celebrity. A historic photograph of each woman was accompanied by a paragraph highlighting their respective achievements, posted on the wall near each outfit.
The array of styles, textures, cuts and colors was dazzling. The total number of outfits hovers around 40—each one fresh and unique.
Unfortunately, the variety is overwhelming rather than informative due to a lack of coordination between the text, photographs and clothing.
While proximity between an outfit and photograph suggested a correspondence, no particular dress is linked to a specific entertainer or photo. This creates a challenge for viewers seeking information while enjoying the innovative beauty of the ensembles.
This exhibit is on view at the South Dallas Cultural Center through March 23. Visit www.sdcc.dallasculture.org for more information.