Deciphering Jan Jansz Mostaert’s Portrait of an African Man reveals the presence of Black bodies within European court circles and hints at their position within them.
This 16th-century portrait attributed to Annibale Carracci is valuable for its realistic depiction of a Black sitter, possibly a seamstress, who is dressed in a fine but sensible black day dress with touches of Italian luxury.
Diego Bemba’s 1643 portrait, along with those of Pedro Sunda and Miguel de Castro, represents an early example of cultural exchange in which African ambassadors donning European costume in order to project a carefully curated image of cultural capital.
This young woman dressed in blue silk edged with lace demonstrates fashionable simplicity for the 1770s, and may have lived in a Spanish or British colony in the Americas.
The young man in this portrait, dressed in formal French aristocratic style, represents the final flourish (or last gasp?) of the ancien régime in the last years before the French Revolution.
Elizabeth Keckley, a remarkably successful dressmaker, built her career upon exacting technical standards, graceful clean lines, and an understanding of Parisian fashionable trends. She is well known for her work for the political elite of Washington DC, particularly for Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckley was one of the first African American women to publish a book and was an impassioned activist who created a relief organization for newly freed enslaved persons.
This lush purple velvet dress designed by Elizabeth Keckley for Mary Todd Lincoln features both an evening and day bodice paired with a wide crinoline skirt. The ensemble, worn in 1861-62 while Lincoln was First Lady, reflects fashionable dress trends of the time.
This 1863 gown, worn by Mary Todd Lincoln, is an exquisite example of fashionable dress from the early 1860s. With its elegant fabric and thoughtful details, it reveals more about the wearer and the creator, Elizabeth Keckley, an accomplished seamstress who is integral to the history of African-American fashion.
No longer “society’s best kept secret” as the Saturday Evening Post called her, Ann Lowe is recognized as a pioneering African American couturier. Her pieces are preserved in renowned museum collections including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum at FIT.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress symbolizes the political ambitions of the Kennedys and the unsung story of African-American designer Ann Lowe.
- 1986 – Patrick Kelly, Sleeveless black dress with buttonsIn 1980-1989, 20th century, BIPOC, garment analysis, LGBTQ+
- 2004 – Tom Ford for Gucci, Acid Green Evening GownIn 2000-2009, 21st century, garment analysis, LGBTQ+
- 1778 – David Martin, Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Lady Elizabeth MurrayIn 1760-1769, 1770-1779, 18th century, artwork analysis, BIPOC
- 1818-1907 – Elizabeth KeckleyIn 1860-1869, 19th century, BIPOC, designer profile
- 1690-1699In 1690-1699, 17th century, decade overview