Zelda Wynn Valdes – In Celebration of Icons – On their shoulder’s we stand!

Posted on Updated on

In our celebration of Black History Month, which is simply every day and every month in the eyes of LACE. We have in the past years events celebrated icons. This year we were asked why was this added to the event and was surprised that we did this?


This is why, we was celebrating a designer called Zelda Wynn Valdes.

Zelda Wynn Valdes (1905-2001) was an African American fashion and costume designer whose career spanned 40 years. Working in the centre of the American fashion industry, Valdes began her career as an assistant to her uncle in his White Plains, New York tailoring shop. In 1948, Zelda opened her own boutique, “Chez Zelda,” on Broadway in New York City, making her the first African-American to own a store on the coveted street.

The niche she occupied was quite particular: exquisitely finished special occasion coutures. She created wedding gowns, evening and cocktail dresses, and other luxurious ensembles. She dressed the entire bridal party at the 1948 wedding of Marie Ellington and Nat “King” Cole, an event that brought together the upper stratum of black society in New York.

Valdes had an established clientele especially among notable female entertainers and other prominent women within the black community. Her curve-hugging creations were worn and loved by a host of Hollywood’s biggest starlets during the 1940s and 50s, including Joyce Bryant, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Eartha Kitt, and Marian Anderson. She also dressed the wives of famous black celebrities, including Nat “King” Cole and Sugar Ray Robinson. Unlike some other designers who exclusively created “costumes” versus “fashion”, Valdes moved between the two modes and her clients appreciated that as they ordered clothes for performance and also for their private wardrobes.

Valdes is perhaps best known as the designer of the original Playboy Bunny costume. She caught the attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and he commissioned Zelda to design the first-ever Playboy Bunny costumes. And history has proven, the low-cut, skin-tight, sexy outfits are an iconic symbol of seduction and allure, forever ingrained in pop culture.

Zelda Wynn Valdes was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black design professionals in a time when the fashion industry reflected the segregation of American society.

In 1970, Zelda was approached by Arthur Mitchell to serve as the head costume designer for his then newly-established performance company, the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She spent 18 years with the dance company and retired at the age of 83. Zelda Wynn Valdes died at the age of 96 in 2001.

We honour you as an Icon of our time!

If you come across any of your creation’s and you have not been credited correctly, please get in touch with us as we do not wish to offend anyone, this page is intended to give information of what we do and what is going on around in Africa fashion and Education. We are creating awareness of information in one area to emerging designers and public to get inspired by. Much Love LACE…..

Source:  and Research