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The Will to Adorn has created a wealth of educational videos, articles, and other resources for researchers and those interested in African American dress and identity. Here we have curated a list of the best.


Will to Adorn: An Overview
Through the work and perspectives of museum, academic, and community scholars, as well as community-based artisans and designers from across the nation, Will to Adorn explores the diversity of African American identities as expressed through the cultural aesthetics and traditional arts of the body, dress, and adornment.

What Does Clothing Communicate?
Clothing is often used to show faith, to mark a rite of passage, or to indicate inclusion in a group. Drawing on her research into African American communities in seven cities, Diana N’Diaye asks: “How do we define and express our community through the clothing we wear?”

Case Studies: Young Students Documenting Artisans of Style
Mustard Seeds’ youth group has named themselves “The Young Folklorists” and is implementing the Will to Adorn program in its own community, documenting artisans of style in the greater Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area.

Documenting Students’ Own Lives, Families, and Communities
Staff and youth from AS220 describe how they wrapped their heads around the Will to Adorn project and how it is evolving in their community space. Several youths demonstrate clips of their work and talk about what they’ve learned from participating.

Pass the Mic: Hip-Hop Style to Afro-Punk in Cleveland’s Fashion Culture
Max Hayes High School, on Cleveland’s Westside, is home to a group of dedicated youth researchers. This presentation highlights their journey uncovering Cleveland’s fashion culture through the lenses of hip-hop style and emerging Afropunk culture.

The Art of Style: A Visual Arts Curriculum for Middle School Students
See and hear about the recent work of fifth and sixth graders at Akili Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana. In after-school enrichment, students have been exploring the themes of The Will to Adorn while making their own patterns, paintings, and symbols.

Style in Motion
Speakers from Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center in the Bronx talk about their ethnographic research with style makers and cultural custodians within the African American community.

Folklife Festival Videos

Muslim Fashion Show
Designer Lubna Muhammad creates clothing fashion for Muslim women, which she presents on the Will to Adorn runway.

Faith and Fashion: Anthony Gaskins’ Hat Revival
Milliner Anthony Gaskins discusses the history of hats in the African American community while displaying some of his work in a fashion show. Members of the Takoma Street Baptist Church model Gaskins’ hats and talk about the importance of wearing hats to church.

Dorothy Height and Mary McLeod Bethune Remembered
Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, highlights the contributions to society and the influential fashion styles of two prominent civil rights leaders.

A History of Urban Dance: Urban Artistry Performance
Urban Artistry, an international collective of artists and dancers, reveals how street culture aligns music and dance with dress. Members are educators as well as performers and operate with the idea that culture is not stagnant, but alive and breathing, built on the legacy of past innovators.

Voguing at the Ball
Earle Bannister, a Baltimore tailor, talks to presenter Althea Grey-McKenzie about the history of voguing, a dance style that originated in the African American and Latino American LGBT ballroom communities of the 1980s.

The Most Powerful Poem You Have Ever Met
Alexis Gumbs, a textile artist, political advocate, and presenter at the Will to Adorn program, reads a poem at the Festival’s closing ceremonies.


The Will to Adorn: Reflections on African American Identity and the Aesthetics of Dress
Curator Diana Baird N’Diaye shares stories, observations, and insights from The Will to Adorn in an hour-long presentation at the Library of Congress.

Select Student Projects

Will to Adorn student curators work with organizations across the country to write blogs, create short documentaries, and conduct oral histories that record people’s personal choices about their style, identities, and communities.

Museum of the African Diaspora Online Exhibition
Through street photography, museum visits, field trips, and interviews with San Francisco Bay Area fashion creators and trend setters, take a closer look at the different ways African American fashion is expressed.

DuSable Museum of African American History Online Exhibition
Teens explored the city of Chicago to document the impact of segregation on African American style across the city. This is the final exhibition of their findings.

Ashley Santos’ Style
Students in the AS220 Youth program in Providence, Rhode Island, interview Ashley Santos about her fashion choices.

Nuri Medina’s Style
Youth historians Malik and Zeke Thomas with the Bronzeville Historical Society interview Nuri Medina about his personal style.

Samuel Teague’s Jewelry
Izikiel Thomas and Malik Thomas, a youth historian team with the Bronzeville Historical Society, interview Samuel Teague about his extensive jewelry collection.

Yvonne Barrett’s Designs
A documentation team from God’s Gang in Chicago interviews Yvonne Barrett about her work combining African prints with American casual wear.

Youth Barbering
In this audio slideshow, students with AS220 Youth document the culture of The Atomic Barbering Salon in Cranston, Rhode Island.

AS220 Youth Fashion Show
Models show off their own personal style, working the catwalk with confidence and showcasing their impressive sense of fashion. Even the little ones ran the runway like pros!

In the News

San Antonio students study African American fashion for ITC exhibit
via San Antonia Express-News (1/13/18)

Beauty of a black woman’s hats on exhibit at Great Lakes Folk Festival
via Lansing State JournalĀ (8/8/17)

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