Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

Exhibition Website

May 20 2016 - Aug 14 2016

Inspiring Beauty, the first ever exhibition on the Ebony Fashion Fair, explores the 50-year history of the fashion spectacle that redefined concepts of beauty, style, and empowerment for African Americans. The exhibition also profiles the Fair's visionary director and producer, Eunice W. Johnson, co-founder of Johnson Publishing Company and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. The garments, accessories, photographs, videos, and ephemera that make up the exhibition convey the story of Johnson's ability to defeat racist attitudes while gaining access to many of Europe's premier fashion houses, revolutionizing the relationship between African Americans and the fashion establishment.

Among the approximately 40 statement designs on view are stunning gowns, feathered coats, and sensational hats by icons of fashion including Stephen Burrows, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Missoni, Nina Ricci, Sarli, Emanuel Ungaro, and Vivienne Westwood among others. The ensembles, displayed on stylized mannequins, recreate the way audiences were introduced to these fashion-forward designs on the catwalk. The exhibition offers an unforgettable experience to visitors who never had the opportunity to attend Ebony Fashion Fair, and illustrates themes of vision, innovation, and power as exemplified by Johnson's entrepreneurial spirit, flair for fashion, and philanthropy.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
IMAGE: Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld, Evening Dress, ready-to-wear, fall/winter 1983–84, acetate/rayon blend, glass beads and rhinestones, and plastic sequins, appeared in Fashion Extravaganza; Photograph by John Alderson, © 2013 Chicago Historical Society 
  • Costume
  • American
  • Design
  • Stephen Burrows
  • Christian Dior
  • Givenchy
  • Christian Lacroix
  • Yves Saint Laurent
  • Missoni
  • Nina Ricci
  • Vivienne Westwood
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates