This spring I've been thinking about clothing as anthropology. Clothing is an industry of course-- a vibrant and multi-billion dollar one in our modern world. Its antecedents are the signage of human history, our molting and shedding, our romance semiotics. Clothing is also the common thread that connects the story of human kind, and connects the past to the present. It's a unique piece of the human experience. In every stitch, there is a narrative, from a Bedouin bride's wedding jacket in 1917, to Trayvon Martin's hoodie in 2012.

I think of these stories as "The Seams." Let me show you what I mean.

There's a story here on JackiLyden.com which aired on NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon on February 15th called "The Ebony Fashion Fair." Ebony Magazine was and is a go-to monthly specifically for African-Americans. It was founded in 1948 by the visionary John and Eunice Johnson. Eunice was from a prominent Selma, Ala. family, and she used clothing as self-empowerment, as many women do. But she also used it for community empowerment. The tradition of the black fashion show dates back to the 19th century. Eunice Johnson began flying to Europe to acquire clothing from top designers. Her husband wrote in his memoirs that she had to convince some of those designers to sell to a person of color. But sell they did when she brandished her taste and her checkbook. She used the clothes do stage fashion shows, and by 1958, the Ebony Fashion fair had begun. It would send hundreds of young African-American women (and some men, like "Shaft's" Richard Roundtree) on the road, even into the Jim Crow South in the 1960's. And by the time the fair closed in 2009, it had visited hundreds of cities in the US and raised 55 million dollars for charities like the United Negro College Fund. Here in Washington DC, it wasn't hard to find black women who had glorious, vivid memories of attending each year with mothers, sisters, aunts. If you're lucky enough to live near Chicago, visit the Chicago Historical Museum. Until May 11th, check out "Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair." If you don't live in Chicago, fear not -- this costume show is going to travel the country.

The next story in my "Seams" tradition focuses on the fashion connection between Andy Warhol's early "superstar," Baby Jane Holzer, and Warhol himself. This aired Saturday, March 15th, again on Weekend Edition. Holzer was the most photographed woman in the world in 1964. The Vogue editor Diana Vreeland dubbed Baby Jane Holzer "the most contemporary girl I know." Tom Wolfe wrote about her in an essay in "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamlined Baby." When Jane met Andy, both their lives changed. She started to appear in his short, silent "underground" films. He had a new entre into the world of the very very wealthy as Holzer herself was. They fashioned a moment in history they'd revisit again and again. They remained friends. A beautiful tribute to this is the show called "To Jane, Love Andy" at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it's up til May 25th.

I hope to have more exciting announcements about these stories we'll call "The Seams" with Jacki Lyden very very soon.

  • When Jane met Andy: A Superstar is Born

    Jane Holzer was the most photographed woman in America in 1964. She had the look; a sort of Blonde Amy Winehouse. She was photographed by Horst, David Bailey, and Irving Penn. Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue, called her "The Most Contemporary...

  • Women of Vision: National Geographics' Amy Toensing and Maggie Steber talk to Jacki Lyden.

    I'm married to a brilliant storytelling photographer, William (Bill) O'Leary, of the Washington Post. ( Facebook/BillO'Leary) I've loved documentary photography since college, studied under Lynn Sloan and Charles Traub (Now head of the School of...

  • Ebony Fashion Fair-Changing History on the Catwalk

    I loved this story. It began with a tip by two NPR colleagues, Walter Ray Watson and Carline Windall Watson of Tell Me More. They'd visited the show put together by the Chicago History Museum and curator Joy Bivens was incredible, and that led...

  • Hat-Maker Philip Treacy's Favorite Hat, And Many More

    I love millinery. Philip Treacy would appear to have Madonna, Lady Gaga and Kate Middleton on speed dial. He's from County Galway, Ireland-- and could not have been more charming. He's an artist, and this is a wonderful artist's conversation...

  • Any Friend of Aramaic is a Friend of Mine! "Good Luck On Your Resurrection!"

    I met Karen Stern in December of 2010 when I spilled coffee on papers she was grading -- oops! "Isn't that Aramaic?" I said. Her attitude is: Any friend of Aramaic is a friend of mine. Karen told me she was exploring Aramaic tomb graffiti in...