Dorothea Towles was the first African American model to work for Haute Couture houses in Paris.
Dorothea Towles Church (July 26, 1922—July 7, 2006)
Dorothea Towles Born on July 26, in 1922 in Texarkana, Texas.
Towles travelled to Los Angeles, California after her mother’s death in the early 1940′s, where she enrolled herself in the Dorothy Ferrier Modeling School where she was the first black student.
In 1949, Towles followed her older sister Lois to France. After Arriving in Paris, she fell in love with the city and found that the long trip was well worth it. She found new opportunities and decided she wanted to stay in France so she decided to sell her return ticket to the US.
While in Paris, she decided to put to work her experiences she obtained from the Dorothy Ferrier Modeling School. The French designers loved her short waist and long legs, as they were similar to those of French women.
The famed French Couturier Christian Dior was the first to hire her. Working with other models from around the world, she helped Dior to internationalize the appeal of his fashions. She was one of the models chosen to help make popular Dior’s revolutionary “New Look”. She captivated his clients during runway shows.
Towles loved to travel, she found herself in many different exotic destinations.
she stunned the French with her newly bleached blond hair
After her much success in France, Towles decided to return to the United States. Life for her would not be so open and free as she had known it to be in Europe. The fact that she worked with some of the most famous designers in Paris helped to begin opening minds in Europe and eventually making fashion more inclusive in the United States. Upon her return, she began a tour of black colleges, showcasing her couture line.
Dorothea Towles on the cover of Jet magazine
“I feel that my going all over America with my show had a great influence on American black women dressing differently and feeling good about themselves,” Towles once said. “They could say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too.’”
She died on July 7, 2006 in New York City at age 83.