Charles Elliot Harbison

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Growing up in small-town North Carolina in the ’90s, I loved watching them: their joie de vivre and sexual confidence contrasting with the blue-collar reality of their lives from 8 to 5 every weekday; their armor and shield, sword and dagger, in the form of suits, clutches, earrings, and sheaths. I became a fashion designer, and they are my consummate muses, working-class and Black.

High fashion has ignored these women’s stories. But they are a pillar of American fashion, a conduit of sartorial expression. These women took artistic license to write their own beauty narrative, one that refused to be boxed in by the utilitarianism of blue-collar work.