The cover of the Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair exhibition catalog.
It was so exciting that Gayle King talked about her experiences being in the Ebony Fashion Fair shows in yesterday’s profile posting. Once again, this post has inspired me to (no pun intended!) feature the exhibition in today’s Books, Books, Books review and again in the Fashion Flashback post on Friday. Unfortunately, we no longer have this awesome book in the Chicago History Museum Store, I did find some listed on Amazon and on eBay, if you don’t already have a copy in your fashion library (and why don’t you!!!!???) it is a must have. What I find in any exhibition book is that if I have seen the actual costume exhibit I can review it and visualize it at any time, if I have been unfortunate and haven’t seen it in person then I can make-believe by reading the text and seeing all the glorious items featured in the many costume collections around the world. The costume exhibition books just keep getting better and better…yay!
Eunice Johnson at work.
Once again, Rosemary K. Adams, Director of Publishing, Chicago History Museum, has edited a truly special, unique, educational volume, along with Joy L. Bivins, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Chicago History Museum, who served as curator of the exhibition with Virginia Heaven, Professor in Fashion Studies, Columbia College Chicago. Both Joy and Virginia have written superb pieces on Eunice Johnson, Ebony, Johnson Publishing and Fashion Fair and its importance to not only African American life, which is magnificently chronicled, in the book, by Maxine Leeds Craig, but on the fashion world at large.
The blockbuster exhibition was an extraordinary ode to a one of a kind visionary, Eunice Johnson, whose fashion sense was and is unprecedented quite frankly in any industry and will not, in my opinion, be duplicated anytime soon, if ever!
Joy Bivins, in the exhibition.
There so many elements to the catalog and it, in turn, directs you to other publications for further study…I think you know by now, I adore doing research, I guess I always have and when I find any book that expands my knowledge, even when I think I know the subject well (which this one does, for sure!) I learn so much more than I thought I would upon turning to the first page. Another element of the book and the exhibition, that was particularly intimate to me, was personally knowing and working with several of the designers featured, as well as Mrs. Johnson and her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, who graciously sanctioned the Show and guided it through its presentation.
Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé Fall/Winter Prêt à Porter 1983-1984. I worked with this exact iconic garment ” The Showerhead Gown” when Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago presented the Chloé trunk show that season. We had the Chloé trunk shows, both Spring and Fall for several years, unfortunately not with M. Lagerfeld, always to rave reviews by clients and press.
Mrs. Johnson with Karl Lagerfeld during his Chloé days.
An extravagant ensemble from the creative genius, Bob Mackie, a designer I worked with on many formal extravaganzas.
Mrs. Johnson working with the extraordinary Yves Saint Laurent at his desk.
In my opinion, an intriguing part of the book is how it is divided into sections and the photos are assembled in the order of the chapter headings “Innovative”, “Glamourous”, “Colorful”, “Revealing”, “Bold”, “Sassy”, “Dazzling” and “Powerful”…any of which could describe the entire collection. I don’t believe we will ever see so much diversity in designers, so much glamour, nor so much Haute Couture in one place all because of the vision of one woman and her determination to bring beauty to her readers and Fashion Fair show audiences. Our gratitude must go to Eunice Johnson for allowing us a glimpse into this world and to The Chicago History Museum and it’s Costume Council for the foresight to bring it to us in this magnificent exhibition and it’s legacy, this catalog that can live with us forever!
I will detail the exhibition, the gala and other aspects of this special collection in Friday’s Fashion Flashback posting.
Photos are from the book, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair and courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.