Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, 11:00 a.m. PST
In person and on Zoom
James Bridges Theater, UCLA TFT


Presented by
The David C. Copley Center for Costume Design

With support from The Department of African American Studies

Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Ph.D.
David C. Copley Center for Costume Design
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Cheryl L. Keyes, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of African American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Elizabeth Way
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
New York, NY

The influence of Black style is an undeniable force in fashion, film, and visual culture in the United States. Black bodies have consistently acted as sites of cutting-edge aesthetics and emulation, but also ridicule, discrimination, fear, and violence. Between these perspectives are also shades of distinctive nuance. This webinar engages scholars and practitioners in conversations to explore the evolving perceptions of Black fashion and aesthetics in popular culture, especially on screen, addressing the multiple viewpoints within two ongoing and contentious issues: body size and respectability politics.


Within mainstream Euro-American culture, specific perceptions of Black women’s bodies as larger than average have
developed since at least the 19th century. This imagery, with roots in stereotypical minstrel caricatures such as
“the Mammy,” who was depicted as generally overweight and desexualized and the “Jezebel,” depicted as curvaceous
and oversexualized, still impact contemporary depictions of Black women on television and film, effecting their
fashionable appearance and costuming. This conversation will explore how these perceptions evolved in Western society,
how they have played out in presenting images of fashionable Black women on screen, and how the racial politics
within the contemporary body positivity movement may be effecting change.

Samantha N. Sheppard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Cinema and Media Studies
Cornell University

Sharen Davis
Costume Designer
Dreamgirls (2006), Django Unchained (2012), Fences (2016)

Kim Jenkins, MA
Lecturer and Researcher
The Fashion and Race Database


From the 19th century, upper and middle class Black American communities generally ascribed to “respectability politics” (Higginbotham, 1994) — adhering to mainstream middle-class behavior and dress — as a way to insulate themselves from discrimination and violence, often encouraging working class Black people to follow suit. Yet, other groups of African Americans rejected respectability politics as ineffective, instead cultivating their own fashionable aesthetics. Often, these subcultural styles revolved around youth, music, and dance, and may be described as “the aesthetics of excess” (Hernandez, 2020). These two perspectives have seen ongoing debate in Black communities from at least the 19th century. This conversation will explore how these perspectives developed and evolved in the U.S., how they have played out in popular culture and on screen, and the relevancy of this debate within contemporary fashion and aesthetic cultures.

Monica L. Miller, PhD
Professor, Barnard College
Author, Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity

Danielle Hollowell
Costume Designer
Unthinkable (2010), Girls Trip (2017), Little (2019)

Rikki Byrd
Writer, educator and curator

This Colloquium is Made Possible By
Brian Kite, Dean, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
J.Ed Araiza, Chair, UCLA Department of Theater

Gina Lewis, Colloquium Programing Assistant
Natasha Rubin, David C. Copley Center for Costume Design
Eboni Shaw, Department of African American Studies
Tricia Park, Department of African American Studies

John Soliman, Video Editor
Jeff Burke, Associate Dean for Research and Technology, UCLA TFT
Juan Nunez, House Manager, UCLA TFT
Steve Perlmutter, Chief Studio Projectionist, UCLA TFT
Noela Hueso, Senior Communications Manager, UCLA TFT

Colloquium Schedule
11:00 a.m. Welcome and Introductions
11:15 a.m. Panel I: Black Women and Body Size in History and on Screen
12:15 p.m. Coffee Break
12:30 p.m. Panel II: The “Aesthetics of Excess” and Respectability Politics
1:30 p.m. James Bridges Theater in person discussion followed by refreshments


As a land grant institution, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples
as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, So. Channel Islands).

Posted: October 19, 2021