Reese’s Pieces

See designer Tracy Reese discuss black fashion designers, embracing every size, and first lady of style Michelle Obama.

Photo by Eileen Costa

Fashion insiders turn to Vogue Runway for a comprehensive database of the shows from Fashion Weeks around the world, but despite being an international endeavor, only 1 percent of the designers the site covers is black. In the United States, clothes have always been made by black seamstresses and tailors, yet the fashion world didn’t accept the idea of black designers until the 1940s. Such pioneers as Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes (she designed the Playboy Bunny costume and was the first African-American to own a store on Broadway) and Ann Lowe (who created Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress for her marriage to JFK) paved the way for future stars like Tracy Reese, whose ready-to-wear label launched in NYC in 1998.

This Wednesday, Reese will chat with Elizabeth Way, the cocurator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s exhibit “Black Fashion Designers,” about designing for women of all colors and sizes. Not to mention all levels of fame. Reese was one of former fashionista in chief Michelle Obama’s favorite designers for her arms-flaunting dresses, including the one she wore for her speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Perhaps Reese will share the secret to our former FLOTUS’s sculpted shoulders?

Tracy Reese in Conversation With Elizabeth Way
John E. Reeves Great Hall
Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
227 West 27th Street (at Seventh Avenue)
March 15, 7 p.m.

“Black Fashion Designers” 
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
227 West 27th Street (at Seventh Avenue)
Through May 16

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