Ladies' Pages: African American Women's Magazines and the Culture That Made Them

By Noliwe M. Rooks | Go to book overview

4
“Colored Faces
Looking Out of
Fashion Plates. Weill”
Twentieth-Century Fashion,
Migration, and Urbanization

The woman who worships at the shrine of fashion loses her bear-
ings among the perplexities of our modern life. She has no time to
read good books, no time to cultivate those things that minister to
the refinement and beauty of her home, and no time or inclination
to contribute her heart and talents to the social uplift of those
around her.

Fannie Barrier ‘Williams, 1913

IN the pages of the nineteenth-century Ringwood’s Journal, fashion for African American women was most often discussed as a means of uplifting the African American race as a whole and distancing African American women from outmoded associations with slavery, violence, and sexual vulnerability. Fashion’s relevance was consistently invoked by those desirous of donning the mantle of “ladyhood,” and fashionable display was described as a crucial prerequisite for inhabiting public spaces such as churches, political meetings, and social events. Disturbingly, the models of “fashionability” most often portrayed in the magazine had light skin and white features. In the nineteenth century, fashion was

-65-

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