Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

February 5–May 3, 2015
Baker/Rowland Galleries

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion FairThe first-ever exhibition on the Ebony Fashion Fair, Inspiring Beauty explores the fifty-year history of the charity fashion spectacle that redefined the concepts of beauty, style, and empowerment for African Americans by examining the history of the traveling fashion show and its director and producer, Eunice W. Johnson. Inspiring Beauty showcases nearly one hundred objects including ensembles and accessories displayed on fully stylized mannequins to re-create the runway experience.

At the center of this dynamic fashion experience are the stunning gowns, feathered coats, and statement designs seen in the forty garments selected from a collection of thousands Johnson amassed in five decades.

Works by designers including Stephen Burrows, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Bob Mackie, Missoni, Jean Patou, Sarli, Emanuel Ungaro and Vivienne Westwood, illustrate themes of vision, innovation, and power.

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair was developed by the Chicago History Museum in cooperation with Johnson Publishing Company, LLC, presented by the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.


Givenchy by Alexander McQueen (France), Evening dress, haute couture, fall/winter 1997–98. Synthetic raffia mounted on silk gauze. Appeared in The Jazz Age of Fashions. Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC.