Style Exhibit

BAM Celebrates 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

Explore the history of the iconic traveling fashion show and how it redefined beauty, style, and empowerment.

By Aoife Reilly May 17, 2016

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The exhibit not only showcases pieces from the iconic traveling fashion show, it also profiles the show's visionary director and producer, Eunice W. Johnson.

Image via Bellevue Arts Museum

The history of the Ebony Fashion Fair will be put on dazzling display this summer, at a new exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum.

The exhibition, titled Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, will celebrate both the history of the traveling fashion show and the life of the show’s producer, Eunice W. Johnson. The Ebony Fashion Fair began in 1958 and was the brainchild of Johnson, who, together with her husband, built Johnson Publishing Company and established Ebony and Jet magazines.

Renowned for its theatrical and innovative presentations with models of all shapes and sizes, the annual show brought European fashion to audiences across America and provided a platform for African American designers to be presented side by side with some of world’s leading fashion houses. It traveled to nearly 200 cities and raised more than $55 million for charitable interests.

Organized by the Chicago History Museum and the Johnson Publishing Company, it is the first exhibition on the iconic fashion show. It features more than 40 eye-catching pieces from designers such as Christian Dior, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, and Vivienne Westwood (be sure to check out Emanuel Ungaro’s embroidered silk bridal gown and the theatrical yet elegant piece by Alexander McQueen when he was chief designer at Givenchy.)

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The exhibit features a huge collection of haute couture pieces from European designers including this embroidered silk bridal gown by French designer, Emanuel Ungaro.

Image via Bellevue Arts Museum

In addition to the show-stopping gowns, coats, and hats on display, there will also be photographs and video footage that tell the tale on how Johnson helped revolutionize the relationship between the African American community and the fashion industry.

The exhibition runs from May 20 through August 14.

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