Enthralled by Ebony: Black Community in the Fashion World

Black. The word itself brings a sense of wonder and romanticism. The very idea that it shelters and absorbs all the other colors known to man is fascinating. Black says magic without even saying it. Black insinuates seduction and art without even mentioning it. Black was the beginning of time and black will be the end as well. Such is the power of the color, such is the grace is of the word.

However, the world is a cruel place. A place where black is not fair. A place where the yardstick of beauty is measured by the lightness of the skin. A place where black is often, and till date is treated as the sign of slavery. However, history knows the truth, it knows the pain associated with being black.

With time, the oppression towards African-Americans reduced and society gave them a chance to be at par with white people. Over time, great heights have been achieved in the aviation industry, in medical science, in fashion and finally, on one fruitful day we had our first African-American President.


To celebrate the African American’s outstanding performance, achievements and to appreciate them for their contribution, Black History Month is celebrated in the month of February. Though the idea apparently seems noble, Black History month came into being as a protest on the part of the community for being under-represented in the country’s history.


While the month is observed quite effectively, there are objections to its very name which have been raised by young intellectuals. Since the reason behind its origin was to make African-Americans a part of the country’s history, it is deemed effective for it to be called African American History month, since the word “black” has become synonymous with racism.


But going beyond, it must be underlined that the contribution of the African-American community to the United States has been enormous, especially in the field of fashion and lifestyle.


African-Americans have throughout history contributed a great deal to the fashion industry. Everything used by the African-American community from their clothes to their hairdos has added exponentially to the fashion world.


An interesting twist was added by the churches to the African-American community. During the historical period when segregation loomed largely, the churches were the host houses of fashion. Most of the African-American women had to spend the weekdays in uniforms reminding them of their demeaning status. So, Sundays became the days where women dressed in their best fashions, which lead to the saying “dressed in Sunday’s best.”

Thus, church style has become a great part of Southern culture. The wide-brimmed hats and ornamental details now being in vogue in the fashion industry.


The face of American fashion took a direction of change in 1962 when a few artists popularly known as the African Jazz-Art Society & Studio hosted a fashion show in Harlem. The models of this famous fashion show were a few dark-skinned women who flaunted their naturally curly manes.


Though the creators were apprehensive about how the show would be received by the community, to their utter surprise the evening had ended in loud applauses changing the trends in magazines, television and had finally impacted the American pop culture. This show is said to be the origin of the Black is Beautiful movement.

To that end, the discussion about the changing face of fashion in the United States goes incomplete without the mention of the Detroit based famous pop figure, Diana Ross.


Diana had, in her times, been successful in changing the face of fashion with her knack for luxury and pure glamour.


Before Diana became famous in the music industry, she became quite popular for her sense of style and raw beauty. In her budding years, Diana Ross studied modelling and cosmetology and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.


Even when her career in music took off, Diana held onto her knack for fashion and paid great attention to the costumes she wore for her performance, choosing sequins and glitters to ornate them.

Shoulder length bobs, long slit glitter gowns were among the most popular outfits chosen by Diana Ross for her solo performances. Matching with her bold personality, the star chose to keep her eye make-up popping. Her show-stopping beauty, grace, poise and sense of style, made Diana Ross a heartthrob of her times.


As stated, her contribution towards fashion has been immense. Big hair, for example, is one of such. Diana always believed in wearing her hair big and floppy. Diana’s metallic look served as an inspiration for Zendaya Coleman who hit the red carpets of the American Music Award draped in a glittery jumpsuit flaunting her big hairdo.


In addition to the big hair, the pop star flaunted ornate hair accessories which are now being carried forward by current celebrities.


For instance, Beyoncé took the Diana Ross look with a netted hair accessory at the Met Gala.


Jumpsuits, which are currently trending in the fashion world, were given an exquisite touch by Diana Ross. Her famous performance in Central Park is still remembered. The same style has inspired Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé to wear long sleeved glittered jumpsuits on stage.


Diana’s style of eye make-up has been ahead of her times. In fact, so ahead that it is in fashion today! She created her “Bambi like” eyes with deep lashes, white liner around the water line for popping effect, bloomed eye highlighting and so on.


The African-American community has always been very fashionable and colorful. The bold use of colors, shapes, geometry, and patterns are indeed very unique.


However, the current picture of the fashion industry seems devoid of African-Americans. According to the recent trends, the number of African-American designers in the New York Fashion Week has been on a steady incline. According to recent studies, African-American designers covered by the media consists of only 1% of the total number of the African-American designers in the country. The effects of this discrimination are felt by the models in the industry too.


Indeed, the situation is grim. Immediate action is required to address this dark situation.