Joyce Bailey thought she would always be a high school science teacher. After an unexpected early retirement, she began to educate in another way. Bailey and her husband, Norman, opened the Black Fashion Museum in 1994 to dispel any misconceptions that African Americans are new to the fashion industry.
The permanent collection in this small, row-house museum includes a re-creation of Mary Todd Lincoln's inaugural gown, made by former slave Elizabeth Keckley; the actual dress Rosa Parks was sewing when she was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white person; and a miniature copy of Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress, created by designer Anne Lowe.
Most of the displays are old black-and-white photos and magazine articles featuring African American designers and models from this century. Temporary exhibits -- which have included wedding-gown designs and a tribute to Lois K. Alexander-Lane, Joyce Bailey's mother and founder of the recently closed Black Fashion Museum in Harlem -- are changed about every six months. An eclectic variety of displays unrelated to fashion includes a collection of African masks and an informational panel about blacks in the military.
This spot's not fancy. As Joyce Bailey says, "It's a family organization" run by the Baileys and volunteers. Their commitment and the homey atmosphere they have created are what make it special. The museum is open to the public by appointment only. Call at least one week in advance for a guided tour.
-- Lori Robinson