A spectacle of glamour and performance, the traveling fashion show grew out of the pages of Ebony magazine (first published in 1945). Similar to the publication, the fashion event provided transformative images of African Americans as beautiful and successful. Far more than a display of fabulous clothes, the show offered black women a vision of what they could wear and, ultimately, who they could be. Featuring 40 stunning ensembles (gowns, coats, suits), the exhibition includes works by designers such as Stephen Burrows, Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Patrick Kelly, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Bob Mackie, Alexander McQueen, b. Michael, Missoni, Jean Patou, and Vivienne Westwood.
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair was developed by the Chicago History Museum in cooperation with Johnson Publishing Company, LLC, presented by the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.
In Raleigh the exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.