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Black History Month: How Black designers have influenced the fashion industry

Posted at 6:45 PM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 18:50:27-04

MILWAUKEE — The contributions made by African Americans throughout history are vast. I’d like to share some contributions that you may not be aware of right here in Milwaukee.

I met with Lynne Dixion Speller, Dean of Academics and founder of Edessa School of Fashion, to learn how Black designers have influenced the fashion industry.

Did you know that the first “how-to” sewing book was written by an African American woman by the name of Elizabeth Keckley? That book is housed in the Library of Congress.

Elizabeth was Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant. She was also the first African American to have a gown in the Smithsonian First Lady collection.

Another major influencer was Anne Lowe. Lowe was the first Black designer to have her work sold on NYC’s Madison Ave. She designed Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding gown, as well as the entire wedding party. Lowe's list of clientele also included the Rockefeller's, the Roosevelt's, the DuPont's, and many others.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s give a nod to those who paved the way for Black people in the wonderful world of fashion.

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