by Debbie Norrell
Did you know that the Playboy bunny costume was designed by a Black woman? This is a little known Black History fashion fact.
Zelda Wynn Valdes was a fashion and costume designer and the owner of the first Black owned business on Broadway in 1948.
Zelda was revered for her design talent and best known for her skill in highlighting the female body.
Her curve-hugging creations were worn and loved by a host of Hollywood’s biggest starlets during the 1940s and 50s, including Joyce Bryant, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West.
The Pennsylvania-native’s key role in glamorizing these women caught the attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and he commissioned Zelda to design the first-ever Playboy Bunny costumes. And history has proven, the low-cut, skin-tight, sexy outfits are an iconic symbol of seduction and allure, forever ingrained in pop culture.
Born Zelda Wynn in 1905, she got her start in fashion creating outfits for her dolls as a child in Chambersburg, Pa., and began cutting out patterns from newspaper.
She studied her grandmother’s work as a seamstress & also worked in her uncle’s tailoring shop. She offered to create a dress for her grandmother, who said she couldn’t because she was too tall & too big. Zelda did it anyway, and her grandmother loved it so much that she was buried in it.