Discovering an African American Fashion Legend: Zelda Wynn Valdes

Updated: May 28, 2019

Zelda Wynn Valdes born June 28, 1905 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She began her career working in her uncle's White Plains, New York tailoring shop. In 1948, Valdes opened the first African American owned boutique in Manhattan on Broadway and West 158th Street. She sold her dresses to movie star Dorothy Dandridge, opera diva Jessye Norman, and singer Gladys Knight. She also had other celebrity clients such as Josephine Baker, Mae West, Ella Fitzgerald, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, Marian Anderson and Joyce Bryant who was coined the “the Black Marilyn Monroe by Life Magazine. Valdes created the infamous playboy bunny costume in the 1950s. She was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black design professionals. After her boutique closed she continued her career designing for productions until her death in 2001 .

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