28 Days of Black Fashion History: James Daugherty

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James Daugherty is one of many African American trailblazers in the world of fashion with an incredible talent for both fashion illustration and design.

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Fashion Illustration by James Daugherty

Daugherty was born in Los Angeles and became interested in fashion at an early age. Though his parents, Pollyanna and James, Sr. did not have much money, his mother’s employers would give her their designer garments they no longer wanted. James and his mother would redesign them to her preferred taste, and he would sketch her, an artistic skill he inherited from his father.

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Fashion Illustration by James Daugherty
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Fashion Illustration by James Daugherty

Daugherty attended Chouinard Art Institute, but after graduating could only get a job as a maintenance man at Paramount Pictures. Eventually, he began leaving his sketches in the offices he cleaned, and famed costume designer, Edith Head, took notice. She gave him his first job as a sketch artist, working on films including The Ten Commandments and Funny Girl.

He also worked on several of Joan Crawford’s movies including Female on the Beach and Queen Bee with costume designers Sheila O’Brian and Jean Louis, with interior designer Tony Duquette on costumes for the film Kismet, and sketched for Rita Hayworth. Unfortunately, once Hollywood began using ready-to-wear for their films in the 60′s, his services were no longer needed.

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Fashion Illustration by James Daugherty
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Fashion Illustration by James Daugherty

Daugherty traveled to the East coast to pursue his passion for fashion. He worked as a sketch artist for fashion heavyweights such as Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and Liz Claiborne and as a designer for Jerry Silverman before finally establishing his own line in 1974.

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A look from James Daugherty’s signature collection, 1976.

In 2003, Daugherty began teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and remained an adjunct professor there until his death in 2013. If you are ever able to find and view more of Daugherty’s phenomenal work, you will definitely be inspired. (One of his jumpsuits is currently on view at the Museum at FIT’s “Black Fashion Designers” exhibit.)

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A dress by James Daugherty for R&K in 1988.
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(left) A look from James Daugherty, currently on display at the Museum at FIT “Blacks in Fashion” exhibit. Green polyester matte jersey jumpsuit, circa 1974.
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Red polyester crepe gown designed by James Daugherty.  Ca. 1977-1980 (The Peabody Historical Society and Museum, Peabody, Massachusetts)

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James Daugherty in 1988

Did you know that James Daugherty worked on costumes for one of my favorite sitcoms, I Love Lucy. He said, “We had to design things that framed the face. That’s why today I like sketching faces. The face comes first.”

 

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