Sometimes a post idea for Darkjive happens organically: the intersection of various occurrences in my life make it clear that I MUST post about something in particular.
In this case, “Mahogany” started out as a request from a reader who thought that, because it was primarily shot here in Chicago, the lack of a post was a glaring omission on my part.
Additionally, a certain co-worker has referred to me as Miss Ross (a Mahogany reference) for years, because of my borderline-theatrical vintage fashion sense.
I also just recently got past my disdain for the “Theme from Mahogany” so that I could view the film for the first time in its entirety. Alas, the time has come…
Ultimately, this is a cult movie in the truest sense of the word. Watch it for the fashion, for the shots of Chicago in the 70s, for the classic rags to riches tale… or even simply for the dialogue. “Mahogany” is the story of Tracy, a shop girl from Bronzeville who takes classes at a Fashion Design school at night and dreams of making it as a designer… even as she climbs the ladder of success as an unlikely model. Starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, it’s also a sadly flawed tale of conflicting motivations and hard-won love.
A wonderful taste of “Making It” seventies-style… but at what cost? Losing love? Identity? Or maybe, can she have it all?
Today, it’s a question of whether your pants are sagging or not (as far as I’m concerned).
In the Sixties, on the South and West Sides of Chicago, the male clothing signifier was whether you were a Gouster or an Ivy Leaguer.
A former co-worker who I guess would be classified as a Gouster now, but was an Ivy Leaguer then, told me:
Basically, Gousters dressed like old school gangsters (by this he meant O.O.G., like Thirties-Forties-Fifties era), and Ivy Leaguers dressed preppy. Gousters were considered to be kinda like hoods, whereas Ivy Leaguers at least looked like they kept their noses clean (for a pretty accurate visual, watch Cooley High. Preach [Glynn Turman’s character] would have been considered an Ivy Leaguer. Many of the other cats were classic Gousters).
This conversation started when I un-covered a record from about 1964 called “The Gouster” by a local group called the Five-Du Tones.
I found a really nice blog post from Wild-Child where she waxes poetic about the styles:
“I recently encountered an old friend who lived in the neighborhood back in the day. He lived on 35th Street and I lived on 31st. We were from the same neighborhood and attended the same high school. He was the coolest guy in history. Not only was he fine, he could DANCE. His fashion identity was Gouster style. I can still smell the Jade East.
The line is designed by Shari Neal, who explained to Afrobella:
“I always wanted to design tee shirts, but I just never sat down to do it until fairly recently. In the past I had done tee shirt designs for other people and I finally decided to do something for myself.
The name of the company comes from the T.S. Monk song Bon Bon Vie (Gimme The Good Life)”, especially the lines below:
The man promised me a raise (I said who?)
Who’s gonna raise me when I’m dead?
Oh, I’m so tired of putting that clock every day (Working every day)
All day skatin’ on thin ice
Lord knows we could use a holiday, baby
Just the two of us would be so nice…
I feel like those lyrics sometimes, as I’m sure a lot of people do. I like my job, but at the same time, I really want to truly be self-sufficient one day. It’s a really amazing feeling to have something you created (whether it be a blog, t-shirt business, whatever) do well and be able to sustain you financially.”
I love the word-based graphics, and the messages of the line (many of which are Chicago-centric). Plus the prices are just right. Jive on!
Eunice Johnson (1916-2010), widow of Ebony/Jet Publisher John H. Johnson, was more than Black Media’s First Lady. As Creator and Director of the Ebony Fashion Fair (an all black roadshow of haute couture), she paved the way for generations of black models from Beverly Johnson and Naomi Sims to Naomi Campbell. In fact, Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”) was a Fashion Fair model before he was kicking tail on the big screen.
In the show, which was started in 1961, she included some of the most fashion forward designers, including Yves Saint Laurent (pictured with Mrs. Johnson, above). In a time when Chicago was in many ways the hub of culture and information that bound the Black Community together (i.e., the nationally recognized Chicago Defender, Ebony, Jet, and a world renowned music and arts scene), Mrs. Johnson took her Fashion Crusade to the streets in towns both near and remote. Accordingly, sewing machines buzzed each season, inspired by the roadshow of dreams. Her shows, as well as so many of those classic Ebony Magazine fashion layouts, presented our people as we were (and still are) striving to be: free and uplifted. Strutting. Gliding.
As if that weren’t enough, Ebony Fashion Fair, which grew into the world’s largest traveling fashion show, annually encompasses a nearly 180-city tour of the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It has raised more than $55 million for various charities.
And it keeps us dreaming. To me, that is her legacy. She brought the dream to our door.
Picture world renowned photographers flown into Nigeria, photo shoots featuring African supermodels all over the world. I’m not talking about the now fabled All-Black Italian Vogue.
“Arise” is that magazine: published in London by THISDAY, it’s a survey of Contemporary African Fashion & Pop Culture. A window into a world we don’t see in full color, glossy glory nearly enough.
What I have seen of the magazine excites me; but there is a bit of controversy. The magazine has been criticized because an African Lifestyle Magazine doesn’t aid the continent in its upliftment. I disagree, if only because magazines give us something to dream about, views of a life we can all aspire to (if we so choose), or maybe even a degree of escapism. All the better if those people look like us, and the aesthetic is one that we can relate to. Arise Magazine, to me, serves to bring balance to the butter cookie-cutter world of fashion and lifestyle magazines. I like gingerbread, myself.
Also, some folks feel as though the cover price (something like $12 per issue in the US, and 59 British Pounds, or about $90 per year) is overly prohibitive, effectively pricing out many (including me, honestly). But I can dream…
Here’s some KNOCKOUT sample images:
Supermodels Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek & Liya Kebebe dressed by Nigerian designers, Deola Sagoe, Fati Asibelua of MOMO Couture, Lanre DaSilva Ajayi of LDA.
Alek Wek In Deola Sagoe
Naomi Campbell in Deola Sagoe
Liya in Deola Sagoe
for more about Arise, click here
It was 1967. While “Black is Beautiful” sounded a vigorous call to confront and love our authentic African selves, Naomi became “the first black woman accepted as a beauty in her own right,” as she was later described. Her image of authoritative ebony inspired all women of color to pride. Never had a model so dark-skinned received so much exposure, praise and professional prestige. She strode through the pages of Vogue and across billboards for Virginia Slims cigarettes. “Nothing was too good for a picture,” she says in her precise dramatic voice. “The editors would call for more fantasy. I gave them elegance and regality. We were reaching for the stars.”
above, excerpted from naomisims.com
Naomi is a Darkjive icon. It’s not just her outward beauty that we admire. It’s that strut, that palpable pride: “Black is Beautiful” personified. Jive on.
UPDATE: Naomi Sims died of cancer Saturday, August 1, 2009. I am so glad that I spoke of her glory while she still walked among us. She was more than a magazine clipping I posted on my wall in high school. She was, and is an icon of regality in the truest definition.
I’m looking forward to spring, if only to feel the sun on my shoulders. For a some of the looks I am itching to recreate (or at least scope) click here
Tracy Reese’s collection has me laced all up in it….
Disco meets Deco French Riviera is a pervasive look, alongside a lot of flapper influenced shapes….
Phillip Lim is bananas! (in the best way)
and local designer Maria Pinto has got whisper soft chiffon on lock (see below, in magenta).
Pat Cleveland in Halston, 1972
So, I am in in love with a carney The Brooklyn Circus. Great boutique in the NYC. But was I excited to discover that said fly-ass boutique has an outpost here in Chicago!
The BKC has got great urban clothing that is for folks doing holy work (i.e.: not so-fly-you-can’t-get-your-hands-dirty). They say on their site, “The beautiful art of well dressed, intelligent people should never be lost. Please help us as we nurture timeless Style and Character, past, present and future”….with just a touch of freak flag going on. Love. Love. Love.
Here’s the Info:
The Brooklyn Circus (CHI) @ Solemates
2708 N. Halsted
Chicago, IL 60614
Mon-Sat 12-8pm | Sun 12-5pm
more pics here: