50 years of “Ebony” fashion now featured at Milwaukee Art Museum

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Dozens of eye-catching designer gowns and garments fill the Milwaukee Art Museum, and each piece helped redefine beauty in America.

"By doing this show, it not only helped to understand the underscore of the humanity of the models but the humanity of just the black community and the validity of black style and culture that's just not being shown anywhere else," said Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair Guest Coordinating Curator Camille Morgan.

In the 1950s, Eunice Walker Johnson started the Ebony Fashion Fair. It began as a fundraiser for a hospital but turned into a civil rights movement.

"Eunice Johnson really changed the future of the fashion industry and broke color barriers in the fashion industry by using all black models and an all-black staff," said Morgan.

Johnson dealt with apprehension from designers about having their high fashion on African-American models. But taking her show across the country proved people of all colors and body types are beautiful.

"At its hype it was traveling to 180 cities throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean," said Morgan.

46 out of the 50 years the Ebony Fashion Show toured, it stopped in Milwaukee. Now 80 costumes that were once in the fashion fair are on display in the Milwaukee Art Museum's newest exhibit, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.

"13 of those were actually provided by Mount Mary University historic costume collection and that even adds even more designers into the traveling show," said Morgan.

Inspiring Beauty is now open at the Milwaukee Art Museum and it runs through May 3rd. For more information on the exhibit, CLICK HERE.

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