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College of Fine Arts Students Create Fashion Pieces Inspired by Howard University’s Chadwick A. Boseman

Photo courtesy of Darian Clyburn

Over the past two weeks, four College of Fine Arts students got the opportunity to create inspired fashion pieces from one of Chadwick A. Boseman’s films.

The films they could choose from were “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Get On Up,” “21 Bridges,” “Da 5 Bloods,” “Black Panther,” “Gods of Egypt” and “42.” The students used unique materials and their creativity to create distinctive pieces that stood out but told the story of each character they were trying to recreate. 

Destiny Wesley is the only graduate student in the fashion department at the College of Fine Arts. She created a purple padded dress made strictly out of braiding hair. Wesley worked on this piece for hours, but she believes her motivation was the symbolic material she used: hair. 

Photo Courtesy of Destiny Wesley

“On the other side of the loss of sleep and long hours of labor were new levels of resilience and ‘I am more than a conquer or’ kind of energy,” she said. “It meant a lot to rep my culture utilizing hair, a familiar product of versatility, for designing a wearable, functional and empowering garment.” 

Every one of Chadwick Boseman’s movies was based on different periods or societies. Students made sure to relate this message by sticking to their particular movie. One student that created a mid-century piece in honor of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is sophomore fashion design major Gabrielle Manion from Oakland, California.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” takes place during the 1920s. Clothing back then was very traditional and conservative, but also chic if one could afford it. Manion wanted to make sure that she brought this fashion statement back to life, but in a modern way. Her piece was a gold brocade trench coat with a fur shawl collar and an adjustable ivory tiered skirt made of taffeta.

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Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Manion 

“This piece was inspired by the 18th-century garments worn by people of high status. In the 18th century, women of a high class typically wore brocade garments with a fitted bodice and a floor-length skirt with lots of volume,” Manion said. “My goal with this coat was to design a modernized version of an 18th-century garment and have it be modeled by Black women to show how we deserve to see ourselves in positions of high class.”

Most people think of “Black Panther” when talking about royalty and Chadwick Boseman. The pieces in the movie were distinct to African culture while adding a modern technological spin to the garments. 

Ruth Carter, a film costume designer, was the head of styling for the “Black Panther” series. In an interview with the HuffPost, she shared that they were not trying to change the aesthetic in the new movie, but make it modern. 

“We approached ‘Wakanda Forever’ with that in mind. We were going to keep a lot of the aesthetic of Wakanda; we’re not trying to reinvent something that already worked,” Carter said. “But regarding our super suits, the Dora and all those uniforms we had in the first one, we wanted an upgraded look. As far as aesthetics and costumes go, we were always trying to make it a very beautiful, interesting, layered Wakanda. The costumes honor him as if the Black Panther lives.”

Rising senior fashion design major, Darian Clyburn, from Louisville, Kentucky, believed the “Black Panther” represented him in his designs. He said this project helped him understand the bigger picture. 

“When creating and getting inspiration, I realized how deeply rooted the concept behind these movies were to me personally,” he said. “Helping me understand the bigger theme behind Chadwick’s life and the purpose behind his career. This project was another guide to help me claim the power of my own inner Black Panther or my undeniable gift.”

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In honor of the fallen alumni Chadwick Boseman, the College of Fine Arts Council and COFA  student senators hosted an event to make Aug. 28 the official Chadwick Boseman Day at Howard University. 

“I felt a part of something bigger than myself,” Wesley said. “The support was overwhelming and real, and it was an honor.” 

Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman

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