Zelda Wynn Valdes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Zelda Wynn Valdes (June 28, 1905 – September 26, 2001) was an African-American fashion designer and costumer.

Valdes grew up in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.[1] She began her professional career working in her uncle's White Plains, New York tailoring shop.[2] Around the same time, Valdes began working as a stock girl at a high-end boutique. She eventually worked her way up to selling and making alterations, becoming the shop's first black sales clerk and tailor. Looking back, Valdes said "It wasn't a pleasant time, but the idea was to see what I could do."[1]

In 1948, Valdes opened her own boutique in Manhattan on Broadway and West 158th Street. In the 1950s, she moved "Chez Zelda" to 5"7th street in midtown.[2][3]

Valdes's celebrity clients included Josephine Baker, Mae West, Ella Fitzgerald, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Marian Anderson.[2] According to Valdes, "I only fit [Ella Fitzgerald] once in 12 years. I had to do everything by imagination for her. She liked fancy clothes with beads and appliques. I'd just look at the papers and say, 'Gee, she's gotten larger.'"[1] Valdes also created a new sexier image for singer Joyce Bryant who LIFE Magazine dubbed “the Black Marilyn Monroe."[4]

Valdes also dressed the entire bridal party for the 1948 wedding of Marie Ellington and Nat King Cole.[2]

Valdes is known as the designer of the original Playboy Bunny costume, although it is not clear if she was the sole creator of the costume.[2][5]

She was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black design professionals.[2][6]

In 1970, Arthur Mitchell asked Valdes to design costumes for his new company, the Dance Theater of Harlem.[3] By 1992, Valdes would design costumes for eighty-two productions.[1] She closed her business in 1989[1] but continued to work with the Dance Theater of Harlem until her death in 2001 at the age of 96.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gonzalez, David (1994-03-23). "ABOUT NEW YORK; Matriarch of Dancers Sews Clothing of Delight". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-07-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Deihl, Nancy (March 31, 2015). "A profile of Zelda Wynn Valdes: costume and fashion designer". Oxford University Press Blog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved July 4, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Gainer, Nichelle. "Fashionable Game-Changer: Zelda Wynn Valdes". Ebony/Style. Johnson Publishing. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Fashionable Game-Changer: Zelda Wynn Valdes". Retrieved 2016-07-04. 
  5. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas (2011-08-27). "The Bunny Is Back". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-07-04. 
  6. ^ "4 Decades Of Fine Local Fashions A Black Design Group Takes To The Runway Today For Its Big Annual Show, And Plans To Start Making Noise.". Retrieved 2016-07-04.