Grass roots glamour: The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance marked the bloom of African-American culture, art, music and style. Thought to have started at the top of the roaring 20s, this era was an unprecedented one for self-expression in the African-American community. Despite Jim Crow laws, African-American entertainment and culture was in its full glory – jazz houses were filled, theatres were packed and artists sparked imaginations with fields of glitz and gloss and glamour.
Undoubtedly introducing some of the most legendary literary talents (Marcus Garvey, W.E.B Du Bois and Langston Hughes, to name a few), this generation was also known for some of the most indulgently glamorous stage acts ever to have hit the Americas.
The gin was cool, the piano was hot and starlets like Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge and Billie Holiday were firing up opera houses, and setting precedent for what we’ve come to know as fearless glamour. Think dazzling head dresses, feathered skirting and dramatic beauty looks set to a soundtrack of big-band, and you have a recipe for trailblazing fashion.
In honour of American Black History Month, we commemorate some of our biggest style icons.
Photo: The Gay Northeasterners by James Van Der Zee, c 1930, courtesy of Donna Vanderzee