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Zelda Wynn Valdes - Pioneers Who Have Shaped America's Fashion Industry

Zelda Wynn Valdes was a fashion designer who promulgated femininity into her designs in a powerful way. Born on June 28, 1905, in Pennsylvania, her family moved to New York in 1923, where Valdes worked at her uncle’s tailoring shop. In 1948, she opened her boutique, called Chez Zelda, making her the first black person to own a store on Broadway in Manhattan. She was famous for her low-cut, body-hugging gowns, which extenuated women’s curves.

This resulted in Hugh Hefner, personally commissioning her to create the iconic playboy bunny suit. Valdes was also one of the rare fashion designers who made a switch into the costume design lane. Outside of Playboy, she designed costumes for over 80 productions. Towards the end of her career, as someone who faced discrimination, she led the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers, a coalition that promoted black designers. To date, her work helps pave the way for black fashion and costume designers; such as Ruth E. Carter and Tracy Reese.


Image:Zelda Valdes_Black-Designers-Fashion-History-Zelda-Valdes_Image found on_Lofficiel Arabia_February 2021.

Text: Gabbara, P (2018) ‘How Zelda Wynn Valdes Redefined Fashion’ 25 April. Available at:

Momodu, A (2017) ‘Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes’ 9 June. Available at:


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