With today’s admiration of the coined phrase “Black Girl Magic,” there are many reasons to dig through the archives on what shaped black fashion, beauty, and entrepreneurship. The exhibit, ‘Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair‘ celebrates historical success.

Created by the Chicago Historical Museum under Johnson Publishing Company, the exhibit is currently on a 9-city tour and has touched down in Washington, DC at George Washington University’s Textile Museum. It will remain there until July 24th.

Founder and fashion mogul the late Eunice Walker Johnson paved the way for people of color in the fashion industry, specifically models who faced racial discrimination at many fashion houses. She started her own fashion show empire, Ebony Fashion Fair and cosmetic line, ‘Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

With help from her late husband, John Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company, from 1958-2009, they supported charities at their fashion shows and in the end raised more than $55 million for black organizations during their 30-city tour around the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. It soon lead Ebony Fashion Fair to become the biggest traveling fashion showcase ever.

Johnson was heavily known for her themed fashions shows that brought nothing but entertainment and electric energy to the catwalk. With her connections to European designers and Black designers she made sure she had the best couture designs displayed on the runways (she is pictured with Yves Saint Laurent below).

From YSL, Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino, Emanuel Ungaro, Vivienne Westwood to Patrick Kelly, Stephen Burrows and more, she splurged more than $1 million on garments  and stuck closely to bold colors and prints throughout her collections.

As previously reported, Back in 2011, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers held a three-term auction with approximately 1500 garments for sale.

Now, many of the most prominent couture designs, more than a 100 of them are displayed at The Textile Museum as well as memorabilia of the great Eunice Johnson herself.

Take a look at some of the designs right here!

Emmanuel Ungaro design, haute couture bridal gown, Fall/Winter 1996-1997

Designed by Vivienne Westwood, haute couture, special order, Fall/Winter 2002-2003 

Designed by Angelo Marani, haute couture, Fall/Winter 2005-2006

Haute Couture, evening look, Fall/Winter 2001 by Hanae Mori

Designed by Stephen Burrows, Spring/Summer Ready-to-Wear 2007 evening dress.

Cocktail dress ready-to-wear Fall/Winter 2003-2004, designed by Tilmann Grawe.

One of Johnson’s favorites, Haute Couture designed by Pierre Cardin. Appeared in the “Fashion Seduction” show for Ebony Fashion Fair.

Special order Fall/Winter 1986 dress themed “I love Fashion Scandal” designed by, Patrick Kelly.

Missoni, Fall/Winter 2006-2007 Ready to Wear, day look.

Designed by Krizia, Haute Couture, Fall/Winter 1981-1982.

Designed by Bob Mackie, haute couture evening gown, Fall/Winter 1984-1985.

What are your thoughts on the Johnson legacy?

Images: Fashionista, and on Instagram from @masterpupeteer@lindajohnsonrice@yoganisamoon@kerilhenderson@karonf@jenkohudson