Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was born June on 28th, 1905 in Chambersburg, PA. She was the granddaughter of a seamstress and in her late teenage years she began working in a high-end boutique in the 1920’s.
With a true love and passion for fashion and design, Zelda opened the first African American boutique in 1948 along with her sister. The boutique was originally opened in Manhattan, NY on Broadway and would later move her studio named, Chez Zelda to Midtown, NY.
In 1949 Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was elected President of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory (NAFAD.)
Through her career as a designer and dressmaker, Zelda attracted many celebrity clients including Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Gladys Knight and Ella Fitzgerald among more. She also designed the gowns for Maria Ellington’s (Mrs. Nat King Cole) wedding party.
Continuing to make a name for herself and a mark on the fashion industry for African American women, Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes captured the attention of Hugh Hefner. In 1958 Hugh hired Zelda to design the first Playboy Bunny costume which debuted in Chicago in February 1960 during the opening of the first Playboy Club.
She went on to do extraordinary work for many high-end clientele as well as go on to be a contributor to the education of youth interested in fashion. Zelda directed workshops for the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited and Associated Teams (HARYOU-ACT) in 1960.
In 1970 Zelda was asked to design costumes for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and by 1992 had designed costumes for over 80 production.
Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes died on September 26th, 2001 leaving behind a legacy in the fashion world!
From the Revolutionary era to the 20th century, women of Franklin County contributed to a young America, helped shape a strong foundation of Franklin County, and contributed to the well-being of community. Join the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at the 11/30 Visitors Center on the square in Chambersburg for Famous Women of Franklin County, 1 PM to 3 PM. The event showcases women of Franklin County with a display, videos, and panel discussion. Panel participants include Bonnie Shockey of Allison-Antrim Museum, Joan McCulloh of Mercersburg Historical Society, Amy Ensley, Director of Hankey Center at Wilson College and Maxine Beck on behalf of Renfrew Museum.
Learn about Margaret Cochran Corbin and her heroism during the Revolutionary War, First Lady Harriet Lane, Dolly Harris and her feat of patriotism as Confederate soldiers marched through Greencastle, and the financial support of Sarah Wilson to give generations of women access to higher education. Fast forward to the 20th century and discover the stories of women like Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes, Emma Nicodemus, Margaret Disert, and Lois Martin. These women are solid examples of conviction, hard work, patriotism, dedication to family, and a strong belief in giving and growing community.
Women often consider the right to vote as a significant step forward for the gender. Yet, year after year, women continue to make important advances by working toward outcomes they valued. Famous Women of Franklin County will highlight some of these women and their stories. Participants—male and female— are invited to share their thoughts about pivotal issues that impact, support, and shape women and their community efforts.
The event is free and open to the public and is one in an series with a lens on history, civics, community and culture.
The Franklin County Visitors Bureau invites all to explore history, arts and architecture, recreation, natural beauty, fresh foods and the warm hospitality of communities like Chambersburg, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Shippensburg, and Waynesboro. Franklin County PA is located just north of the Mason Dixon Line and is an easy drive to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Plan a visit at ExploreFranklinCountyPA.com, contacting 866.646.8060, or stopping by the new Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center in downtown Chambersburg.