Paving the way: Popular 20th century African- American style symbolized political meaning

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Many fashion trends developed as Interstate 496 underwent construction in 1963. Within the history of African-Americans in the 20th century lies political and cultural movements that used the power of fashion to assist in communicating ideas supplemental to the goal of obtaining equal rights. Style choices also derived from popular culture as well as advocates for Black pride. Key fashion motifs were confidence and class which can be seen through the successes of Bill Lett, the owner of a prestigious women’s fashion shop and later a bridal shop both in Lansing, Michigan during the 20th century. Luxurious fur coats and expensive bridal dresses were iconic pieces in these shops. The hunt for respect seems to be a crucial motivator in Black fashion throughout this time period. In a country that has created a severe discontinuity between being Black and being an American, African- Americans have shaped their identity through dress that reflects rebellion and pride and has been used equally as a means to stand out from the majority as well as a means to connect to each other and to their ancestry.


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