Smithsonian Museum Uses Fashion to Tell Story

Collection offers new perspective on black culture

Attention fashion mavens: your clothes tell a story -- not only about you, but also about your culture.

That's something that the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History is betting on with an upcoming display. 

From silk dresses and sun bonnets, to black polyester, elephant-leg bell bottoms and platform shoes, to costumes worn in Broadway's version of "The Wiz," thousands of clothes and accessories designed, made or worn by African-Americans from the days to slavery to the 1980s will be turned into works of art at the museum. 

These works evoke stories and personalities of other times and places -- and tell a larger story of black culture from the perspective of fashion, the museum's chief curator Jacquelyn Serwer told NBC4's Craig Melvin.  

The collection was amassed by a woman named Lois Alexander Lane.  Her daughter donated it to the Smithsonian.

As extensive work such as cleaning and restoring the clothes still needs to be completed, the permanent exhibit won't open for a few years. 

However, portions of it will be on display at the National Museum of American History.

Contact Us