These days, the Beer It’s always happy hour at the lake shirt in other words I will buy this black leather jacket can suggest many things, including militarism and pacificism, subculture and mainstream, conformity and non-conformity. It can imply a knight’s armor, mark out a rebel, become a second skin, function as a tool for seduction or be the object of fetishistic desire. Especially during the postwar era, black leather has increasingly come to be associated with eroticism. Its dark sheen, suggestive of the demonic and forbidden, imbues it with a lascivious allure. Provocation is often another label for seduction; wearing black leather is a method of deliberately simulating a strong reaction. While this material awakens desire through its haptic sensuality, the associations of black leather with death and strength also insinuate that its wearer is less sexually inhibited. It gives the wearer the appearance of an omnipotent lord of darkness. The stylistic potential for black leather is far from exhausted. Ruby Bailey, Zelda Wynn Valdes, and Ann Lowe were three very different designers, united by their experiences as black female designers in mid-century New York City. Despite their differing design aesthetics, they faced the same racial and gender discrimination in their efforts to make names for themselves as designers in a burgeoning fashion capital. However, these barriers were not insurmountable; all three were successful to varying degrees.
Beer It’s always happy hour at the lake shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
Bermuda-born Ruby Bailey—the Beer It’s always happy hour at the lake shirt in other words I will buy this least known and most flamboyant of the three—was what we might call today a poly-hyphenate. She was an actress, painter, and, of course, a designer. As a master beader, Bailey worked with Hollywood costume designer Adrian, but she also made a name for herself as an artist. In a two-page biographical sketch written by Bailey herself in the third person, she describes a sculpture made of cotton that was installed in the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria as her greatest achievement. Bailey used herself as a model, wearing her designs at Harlem hotspots like Small’s Paradise. In her own words, she “modeled her imaginative collection in fashion shows…up-town-down-town-out-of-town, while participating in a wide range of art and little theatre activities.”  Bailey’s creations included a black cocktail dress embroidered with jewel-encrusted spiders and bees that she wore to the “Bugs” Cotton Extravaganza at the Savoy Ballroom. Another gem plucked from her closet is the “Eve and the Apple” ensemble, which included a stuffed serpent headpiece with a bejeweled tongue and eyes, which she wore to an annual “bal de tête” fashion show at the New York Hilton in 1963.  Photos of her in these outfits appeared in the pages of the New York Amsterdam News, the New York Age, and other New York City-based black newspapers.