INSPIRING BEAUTY Review – Chicago History Museum and Ebony Fashion Fair Strut Their Stuff!

Don’t even think about missing this fabulous, historic exhibit. And if you’re one of the fortunate fashionistas who can attend Fierce & Fabulous: A New Look at the Ebony Fashion Fair on May 16, congratulations! Why? This is a story—not a fairy tale!—about a vision way before its time.


Beautiful, bold, sexy, proud, and deliciously daring: Looks so fashion-forward you can’t fully appreciate them without looking back--all the way back to 1958. Before Martin Luther King. Before Women’s Liberation. Before Black Pride. Before Michelle Obama.


Madonna couldn’t even pull some of these looks off. But then, she’s not Eunice Johnson of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company and her coterie of couturiers: Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Cardin, Pierre Cardin, Emmanuel Ungaro, Patrick Kelly—there are some more names to drop, but you get the idea.


So did CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM. This is a landmark exhibit highlighting an extraordinary vision of beauty, pride and power. CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM has devoted 7,000-square-feet to this gorgeous show, one of the largest special exhibitions in the museum’s 157-year history.


“Our exhibition of the Ebony Fashion Fair show offers an unprecedented opportunity to showcase how fashion became a vehicle for African American empowerment, pride and achievement,” states Gary T. Johnson, president, Chicago History Museum.


The exhibition is presented in three sections modeling the traveling show’s format: vision, innovation and power:

Vision, illustrates Eunice Johnson’s role as the creative force behind the Ebony Fashion Fair. More than 30 ensembles demonstrate the power of inspiration and creative freedom. Designs of the most revered names in 20th century fashion including Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Courrèges, Givenchy, Christian LaCroix and Paco Rabanne. They’re all here for your bedazzlement.


Innovation, illuminates the audacity and experimentation of the Johnson Publishing Company. Bold, exciting couture highlights style, shapes and inventive techniques to influence of young audiences with looks by Balizza, Emilio Pucci, and Angelo Marani.


Not surprisingly, the exhibition saves its knockout punch for the third section, Power. Nineteen glamorous, spectacular garments created the jaw-dropping experience that audience members came to expect. Designs by Valentino, Bob Mackie, Bill Blass, Lagerfeld, Eric Gaskins, McQueen, Valentino, Guy LaRoche, Halston and Dior.


And that’s not all…

Thursday, May 16: Fierce & Fabulous: A New Look at the Ebony Fashion Fair

Take yourself back to the 1950s for a closer look at this most untimely fashion explosion. Curator Joy Bivins, Virginia Heaven, Consulting Costume Curator and Chicago fashion designer Tommy Walton give you an insider’s view of the half-century of the Ebony Fashion Fair. The evening concludes with a spectacular runway show in “true Ebony Fashion Fair style!”


And here’s one more tip for a true insider’s tour:Call the museum (312-642-4600) to find out the docent tour schedule—it changes daily.  On the day we were wowed by the show, we happened to catch the end of the docent tour of the day.  Our charming, delightful, knockout docent, Lisa Hall Schilling, had been one of the models! Still stunning, Lisa’s inner beauty is a powerful complement to her style and grace. What an unexpected treat it was to meet someone who had been there and was shaped by the experience! With a little planning, you, too, can share this insightful hour.


You don’t just SEE this exhibit, you experience its power on many levels. Try them all!


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

  • Through January 5, 2014
  • Chicago History Museum, 101 N.Clark (atNorth Ave.)
  • Tickets: (Included in General Admission) $14
    Seniors and Students, $12
    Kids 12 and under free
  • Visit


Thursday, May 16: Fierce & Fabulous: A New Look at the Ebony Fashion Fair
5:30 p.m. Cocktails and appetizers
6:30 p.m. Program

$15 General and $10 Members/Students



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