Who is Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes? I am glad you asked!
Zelda, was a black fashion designer who created the original Playboy Bunny costumes. Yaaassss!! Hugh Hefner personally commissioned Zelda to create the infamous outfits for his sexy playmates. Zelda was a woman born to set the world on fire!
She learned how to sew from watching her grandmother’s seamstress. Her grandmother, who was a big and tall woman didn’t think Zelda could design clothes for her due to her body type. Zelda took that as a challenge and designed the perfect dress for her grandmother. From there, Zelda worked in her uncle’s tailoring shop after graduating from high school. In the 1930’s Zelda became the first black sales clerk and tailor at an upscale boutique in New York. By 1948, Zelda opened Chez Zelda, her own boutique where she was the first black person to own a store in Manhattan on Broadway. This is where her low-cut, body hugging dresses became her signature style with many celebrities. Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt and Mae West were just a few of her clients she designed dresses for.
Zelda even helped shape the look of up and coming cabaret singer, Joyce Bryant. Zelda suggested Joyce exude sensuality in her look to boost her career. Taking Zelda’s advice, Joyce’s dresses were so tight, she was unable to sit down. However, it paid off when Joyce earned a spread in Life Magazine. She became known as the Black Marilyn Monroe and the Bronze Blond Bombshell.
Part of Zelda’s signature look was to accentuate a woman’s curvy figure yet keep it elegant, classy and feminine. This woman had the gift to dress anybody and any body! Working with the great jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, Zelda stated, “I was able to measure her once, but thereafter she was so busy that she didn’t have the time. She would order, always in a rush and I would study photos of her and guess her increasing size. She always said they fit and she’d order more, always three at a time. I never had more than three to four days to finish the gowns. I am pleased to say that I never missed a delivery.”
From 1979 until she died in 2001, Zelda designed costumes for the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
As you read, Zelda was a phenomenal woman who paved the way for many others following in her footsteps.
Please give an erotic salute to Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes!