Most Stylish Black Women in History
by Alexandra Phanor-Faury
We doubt Michelle Obama ever fathomed that her personal style would be of such interest to the American public. But one year into being First Lady, it’s undeniable that her affinity for fashion has not only been a boast for American fashion but it has also reaffirmed both the buying power of African-American women and what we’ve always known-that Black women are stylish. Michelle Obama may be one of the very few Black women celebrated for her impeccable taste by mainstream America, but she certainly isn’t the first stylish sista to make an impressive fashion mark. Black women have long demonstrated their styles and personalities through their inventive fashion transformations over the past decades.
From the 40’s church going women who took pride in their elaborate hats to acclaimed author Zora Neal Hurston’s more minimal lady-like chapeau to Josephine Baker’s sensual style to Grace Jones’ strong edge, fashion has always been part of our lives. In honor of Black History Month, we're taking a look back at the most stylish Black women in history and paying tribute to their timeless style.
Singer, dancer and style icon Josephine Baker was known for her lavish stage costumes. In fact, in the 1930 musical Paris Qui Remue, she had an outstanding 50 costume changes. Baker loved playing dress-up and French audiences applauded her sense of theatrical style of feathers, silk, sequins and headpieces.
While the one look that is etched in most minds is of Baker in her banana skirt, this sensual performer, especially in the 30’s and 40’s, was the picture of elegance. Designers like Dior and Balmain designed beautiful gowns for Baker and were inspired by her joie de vivre. The French were crazy about her style and her image was used to promote a number of successful products, like hair pomades and skin darkening lotions, Parisian women used in an attempt at emulating Baker.