This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
I remember in 2015 hearing about a book called Fashion and Jazz and thinking, “Obviously, I am the target audience for this book,” and purchased it immediately. However, I don’t know that you particularly need a deep knowledge of fashion to appreciate what the author has to say and the stories he conveys in this book. Alphonso McClendon‘s “Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation” is a deeper look into the social and political implications of dress and jazz, including race, class, and gender. These performers were jazz innovators, pop stars, and style icons who continue to inspire people (like me) even today and it’s worth taking a look at why and how they got there through the lens of fashion.
McClendon is a professor at Drexel University, with extensive experience in what I would call the nuts and bolts of the fashion industry, but it is clear from his bio, even beyond this book, that the intersection of fashion and jazz (and topics emanating from that intersection) are a passion outside of his work in today’s fashion industry. Of personal interest to me, he has an undergraduate degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, so now I’m curious as to any other ties he may have to my home state.
And, yes, you get an entire chapter on Billie Holiday (“Beyond the Gardenia”), one of jazz’s penultimate style icons, as well as coverage of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, and he touches on so many others. The entire book is 150 pages long, so one could devour it in a single afternoon and I would say that’s an afternoon well spent.