February 4th, 2013
Black History Month, Blacks in Fashion, Celebrity Style
Black History Month on the Fashion Bomb: Josephine Baker’s Influence on Fashion
By Claire

Way before Beyoncé and Tina Turner, there was Josephine Baker, a St. Louis, Missouri born dancer, singer, actress, and all around entertainer.
josphine baker fashion bomb Josephine-Baker-classic-movies-6359918-588-768
Born Freda Josephine McDonald in 1906, Josephine caused a splash on the 1920′s Parisian scene, thanks to her enthusiastic dance moves and unparalleled beauty. She made her French debut at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées with La Revue Nègre, an act where she performed a Danse Sauvage dressed in nothing but a feather skirt. Her moves had magic in them–she was an overnight sensation and in 1927, she was the highest paid entertainer in Europe.
Her stage costumes and accoutrements were the things of legend: who else could pull off little more than a banana skirt, gold chains, and large Art Deco earrings?
Josephine Baker Banana Skirt
See her perform her dance here:

The Créole Goddess (as she was dubbed) and her infamous banana costume were given tribute in Miuccia Prada‘s Spring/Summer 2011 fashion show. Models sported Josephine inspired slicked down marcel curl hairstyles, and were styled in pieces printed with bananas, black women, and interestingly, monkeys.
josephine baker prada-spring-2011-collection
josephine baker PradaSpring2011Runway2

See Prada’s Spring/Summer 2011 campaign video here:

Josephine worked hard to separate herself from her on stage ‘savage’ persona by adorning herself in the finest threads. She spent most of her salary on clothes by Paul Poiret, Balenciaga, Chanel, and Dior, jewelry, Louis Vuitton luggage, and pets (she had a Cheetah named Chiquita, who had her own diamond encrusted collar).
josephine baker with cheetah chiquita
Apparently Josephine loved nothing more than matching her outfits from top to toe.
josephine baker fashion style
Baker’s slicked down hairstyle and dark lips, along with her costumes, have provided inspiration to countless future entertainers and ‘it’ girls.
diana ross josephine baker
josephine baker tyra_banks_gossip_girl
keri hilson josephine baker
beyonce banana skirt josephine baker

Print magazines have also offered ample tribute.
Beautiful and beloved, Josephine will continue to inspire style for generations to come.

Pat Cleveland, Juan Fernandez, Josephine Baker, and Donyale Luna ca 1970

Pat Cleveland, Juan Fernandez, Josephine Baker, and Donyale Luna ca 1970

josephine baker fashion style 1
Stay tuned for more of our favorite artists in our Black History Month series!

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28 Responses to “Black History Month on the Fashion Bomb: Josephine Baker’s Influence on Fashion”

  1. Fashforward says:

    Bravo! I live! Great post!

  2. mi manning says:

    they made her into the white man’s whore!

  3. Faith says:

    Life restored.

  4. Martinique_Fr says:

    Nice post … Love this!

  5. Taj says:

    Josephine Baker was gorgeous and talented. She definitely has left her mark in the fashion world.

  6. TheAntifash says:

    Cheers to FBD for this! =)

  7. DIVA says:


  8. Mic says:

    Double fierce……..

  9. Jay-Are says:

    Proud to have the name Josephine! She was a pioneer!
    despite some controversies here & there.

  10. Vick says:

    Awesome post!!

  11. Dee Dee says:

    Well done! These post were a great idea!

  12. binks says:

    Josephine was the truth! She had that certain X factor you can’t define because she draws you in even in pictures.

  13. Jei says:

    Love this post! Very inspiring.

  14. Genie says:

    Thank you, Josephine The Queen was loved until her death. It should also be mentioned she worked for the French Resistance in WWII, an amazing woman.

  15. ninjo says:

    Love this post. Bravo

  16. Tina says:

    I am so excited about this series!

  17. justme says:

    Thank you for this post @Claire.
    We (African Americans) forget how rich and beautiful our culture is.
    I still love black history month for all the information that comes to the forefront.
    My family and I learn something new every year.

  18. Elle Wills says:

    Thank you. Loved.

  19. RHONYC says:

    no wonder she bedded the gents AND the ladies…her GAZE was the EPITOME of sexual chocolate… *stamping foot* SEXUAL CHOCOLATE! ;-)

  20. itsjustme says:

    i always love these posts come february, and this one was just as inspiring as the others. claire, i would love to see this series featured beyond february! maybe once a month? inspiration + knowledge!

  21. Ms. Baker would be proud

  22. Kahalia says:

    Really enjoyed this post and all the wonderful photographs. Don’t forget that Josephine hair-with the fingerwaves came back hard in the late 80′s, early 90′s. And the length, still resonates today in Black womens’ style.

  23. Anonymous says:

    i love josephine, but just look at that video and the message it shows if you really watch it with wisely. Shes a black girl in a jungle, dancing in a very animalesc way. Theres black men sitted there with very little clothes that remind me of slavery and dont forget the fact that they working while a white man walks next to them. What are they trying to portray? We have to be aware for the fact that sometimes the succes and talent of a black person was/is used as a tool to portray sometimes directly and other times in a subliminaly the bad vision or the feeling of superiority that some races have about the blacks. Ps: sorry for my bad english.

  24. Bronze says:

    Where are these black women today. Why are all of our women hood rats, jump-offs and angry birds?????? Where are the classy, global minded women who are proud to be black? What happened?

  25. Great post! Can’t wait to see the what’s in store for the rest of the month.

  26. LawyerLady says:

    YES! YES! YES! Josephine was truly a master. A woman well ahead of her time. Please continue these posts! @Bronze – Josephine was seen as terribly scandalous by many in her day too.

  27. GBaby says:

    Yesss! Loved this

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