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Ruby Bailey - Pioneers Who Have Shaped America's Fashion Industry

Ruby Bailey was born in Bermuda in 1905 and arrived in the US in 1912 with her mother and sister. Growing up during the Harlem Renaissance, Bailey embraced both visual and performing arts, participating in fashion shows, art exhibitions and theatrical productions. She was well known for her portraiture and illustrations. At the time, African Americans were not granted access to mainstream clothing and other retail establishments and although Bailey’s work had not been documented outside of New York, the African American press, including the Amsterdam News and the New York Age, covered her extensively.

One of her most notable creations was a zebra-printed “African” influenced jacket, featured in the New York Amsterdam News in 1949. She was recognised for making detailed mannequins which were included in the city’s museum. The mannequins evidenced creative workmanship in their facial expressions, delicate fingers, poses, settings and clothing designs. Bailey’s figures were dressed in beaded gowns, leather suits, fur coats and African and Native American clothing. She reimagined African heritage in bold prints that expressed a nascent Afrocentricity.


Image: Ruby Bailey-Black-Designers-Fashion-History-Ruby-Bailey_Image found on L'Officiel Arabia_February 2021.

Text: Square, J ‘The Life and Work of Ruby Bailey, Zelda Wynn Valdes, and Ann Lowe’. Available at:

Lovell, P (2016) ‘Reintroducing Ruby Bailey’. Available at:

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