Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dorothea Towles Church

Continuing the Black History Month theme for Blacks in Fashion, Dorothea Towles Church, was the 1st successful black model in Paris. Dorothea strutted for Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Pierre Balmain; she broke down some of the racial barriers in the fashion industry, and was revered in France during the 5 years she modeled there!

"If you're beautiful, they don't care what color you are", she said of the French describing her days in the couture salons and nights in Postwar Paris.

During her stay in Paris, Dorothea used her model's discount to buy samples from designers and began designing her own couture line. In 1954 when Dorothea returned to the United States, she began a tour of Black Colleges, showcasing her couture line. Her Fashion Shows served as a fund-raisers for more than 200 branches of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a well-known sorority for black women. In Barbara Summers 1998 Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry, Towles said "I feel that I'm going all over America with my shows and had a great influence on American Black Women dressing differently and feeling good about themselves....I saw them dressing more creatively, more internationally. They could say: If she can do it, I can do it too!"

Dorothea later signed with Grace Del Marco Agency in New York City owned by former mixed model Ophelia Devore. Dorothea's groundbreaking contributions definitely paved the way for models thereafter.

Sadly on July 7, 2006 Dorothea Towles Church died in New York City she was 83 years old.

1 comment:

  1. I am the great niece of Dorothea. Thanks for the beautiful article. She was an indomitable spirit undaunted by the shackles of race, gender or class. In fact, she has 4 great nieces and a nephew who have formed their own family beauty franchise. Move over Kardashians, 607 Noswald Park is on the MOVE! Thank you again for keeping her legacy alive. http://no607.wordpress.com/