Gabby A. '20

Research Question

How did the political climate and specific cultural events of the twentieth century influence black female fashion from the 1970s to present day, and what does this say about the correlation between fashion and politics?

Artist Statement

My creative project displays the evolution of black female fashion in America. In my research, my main driving influence and question was “how did the political climate and specific cultural events of the twentieth century influence black female fashion from the 1970s to present day, and what does this say about the correlation between fashion and politics?” Throughout my research, I narrowed my search down to three major time periods and cultural movements: the civil rights movement, the black panther party and the rise of the hip hop movement and industry. These revolutions that I focused on in my project all encompass the true black experience, and most importantly, the female experience through the lens of fashion. In these “movements” black women used fashion as a weapon to either bring together or to stand apart in their modes of participation. Black women especially used their clothing to fight the system in one of the only ways they could. Their clothes were a form of power and while the “trends” varied throughout the decades, they were all rooted in the ideas of rebellion.

In my creative project, I was really keen on displaying these different ideologies of the various movements in ways that I felt embodied the central themes and motifs of the movements themselves, thus the creation of “PACIFISM”, “RADICALISM” and “INDIVIDUALISM.”

The piece titled “PACIFISM” embodies the ideologies of the civil rights movement and the time of Martin Luther King Jr.; simple, modest and complacent. The main goal of the civil rights movement was to fight for political justice and freedom peacefully. The attire of the woman was modest, not revealing with muted and darker toned simple clothing. For this piece, I wanted to make sure that my artwork reflected these themes. The paper doll fashion sketches of the three women range in skin tone and attire are accentuated with watercolor. I chose to use these mediums because in my view, they allow the viewer to focus solely on the attire and nothing else. Similarly in the civil rights movement, the leaders and participants wanted their words and ideas to be focused and nothing else.

The next piece titled “RADICALISM” is an interpretation of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party was chaotic, militant and profound. In my piece, I wanted to make sure that was accurately depicted. The collage has a lot of moving parts which plays into the party’s chaotic nature. Additionally, the collage is on the cut out of a dress that is separated from its background. This symbolizes the removal of the Black Panthers from the pacifist ways of the civil rights movement and the rejection of the former beauty standards.

The final piece, titled "INDIVIDUALISM", represents the fluid nature of fashion in female hip hop culture and the reclamation of fashion as a form of expression instead of a weapon or tool. The photos of me represent the theme of individualism and creativity while using fashion for fun! I am dressed as how I would envision myself if I was alive in that era.

I hope you enjoyed my creative project!

Creative Work

Creative Project Senior Plan .pdf