We have a renewed fondness for the first Monday in May.
Earlier this week, on fashion's biggest night, director, Radha Blank, debuted a custom Fanm Djanm headwrap to mark the opening of the Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibit. This year's theme, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, with dress code Gilded Glamour, guests were tasked with dressing in an interpretation of the Gilded Age, a period of economic boom and thus great wealth in American history that extended from 1870 to 1890. While known for its luxury, the era was rife with rampant inequality, including institutionalized racism, horrible working conditions, and grave socioeconomic disparities.
Radha, alongside stylist Kelly Augustine, crafted a look that highlighted the comparative experience of marginalized groups during the Gilded Era while celebrating the Obeah Woman. Known as "the magic of resistance," Obeah is a spiritual healing system derived from enslaved West Africans in the West Indies. The practitioner, man or woman, forged strong relationships surrounding physical and emotional wellness and was central to their area's medical and social health.
In relaying the centralness of Black culture to the Obeah woman, each element of Blank's outfit represents a unique part of Pan-African culture. Blank donned denim in recognition of Black indigo and denim makers, white lace and linen in honor of traditional garb during African Diasporic ceremonies, a cigar to represent black labor in the farming of tobacco and other crops, and a machete to continue clearing the way for those who follow. Blank integrated the dress of designer Maria Hollander, a White woman abolitionist, to embody the likelihood that a Black woman created the garment and performed other domestic responsibilities for Hollander, such as cooking and cleaning, during the time.
We utilized two fabrics to create Blank's headwrap and complete the look: a combo of white and red silk pieces and another all-white fabric with a handpainted red stripe to give the headwrap the density and grandeur the evening required. Marie Laveau, a legendary voodoo priestess, inspired the final color, shape, and look.
Blank's outfit - red, white, and blue to signify America - ensured the history and culture of black women would not be left out of the conversation.