Celebrating Black Designers: Zelda Wynn Valdes
February is Black History Month and since Black History is everyone’s history, I’m going to take time out every few days to celebrate Black artists and designers.
I figured I’d start out with someone in a profession that’s close to my heart – Costuming. This legend is Zelda Wynn Valdes, a fashion and costume designer whom outfitted such beauties as Dorothy Dandridge, Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Gladys Knight. Valdes was also the owner of the first Black business on Broadway in NYC back in the 1940’s. She got her start by making patterns out of newsprint, studying her grandmother’s seamstress, and working in her uncle’s tailoring shop. Pretty soon, Zelda’s work was catching all the right eyes including Hollywood and even Hugh Hefner. Did you know Zelda designed the first Playboy Bunny uniforms? She also designed the uniforms for the Dance Theater of Harlem. And she created the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers! This woman was amazing…I hope I can one day be a part of the legends of costuming like she is.
I’m really upset I’d never heard of Zelda before now…thanks to a friend of mine for writing about Zelda on Facebook!