When I began this project about ten years ago, I knew that it was a huge task to attempt to portray the dress of older American women in all their diversity. Although I’ve tried to include older women of color, to be honest I haven’t tried hard enough. I’m going to start changing now.
Anne Spencer (1882-1975) is best known as a poet, part of the vibrant movement in African American arts in the 1920s and 1930s known as the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a civil rights activist, librarian and gardener. During her lifetime, her home in Lynchburg Virginia was known for its open door, and she hosted many of the African American civil rights leaders and artists of her day. Today the house and garden are on the National Register of Historic Places.
From the several photographs available of her on the web, it is clear that she had a strong sense of style. In this one set in her garden in 1947, Spencer is in her mid sixties. She wears what was then called a slacks suit, a beautifully coordinated pants and jacket combination well tailored to fit her body. Note the frog closures that appear to be shaped like flowers. The wide legged pants are a practical and stylish choice for someone who loved to garden. I wonder if sewing also counted among her many skills.