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Tue, 07.11.1916

Lois Alexander Lane, Fashion Designer born

Lois Alexander Lane

*Lois K. Alexander Lane was born on this date in 1916. She was a Black fashion designer, businesswoman, and museum curator.

Born Lois Marie Kindle in Little Rock, Arkansas, where as a young woman, she liked peering into department store windows to sketch dress designs. She later started custom-wear boutiques in Washington, D.C., and Harlem. That devotion and the desire to teach Black youths the techniques for entering the garment industry have led to her involvement in many 20th-century fashion enterprises.

She was a 36-year federal employee, mostly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its predecessor agencies.  She retired in 1978 as a New York HUD community planning and development officer. Meanwhile, as a 1938 Hampton Institute graduate who earned her master's degree in retailing, fashion, and merchandising from New York University, she laid a strong foundation for her pioneering spirit.

In the 1950s, she did freelance photography for Black newspapers and was vice president of the Capital Press Club, an organization for Black journalists.  Influenced by the life and commitment of Sojourner Truth, Mrs. Alexander selected the present BFM site, 2007 Vermont Avenue, NW in Washington, DC, because it was formerly the Sojourner Truth Home for Women and Girls and is recognized by the National Park Service as a possible Underground Railroad site. To highlight her community involvement, Alexander worked with and considered Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, her mentor.

She founded the Harlem Institute of Fashion, the National Association of Milliners, Dressmakers, Tailors, and The Black Fashion Museum. She was the author of her soon-to-be-re-released (1982) book Blacks in the History of Fashion.  Alexander was named by the business magazine, Dollars, and Sense, as one of 1985's top 100 Business and Professional Women in the United States. She held several distinguished citations, including the Josephine Shaw Lowell Award, Kobrand Corporation's Tattinger Champagne Fashion Award, the New York Urban League's Frederick Douglass Award, and a certificate of recognition from the City Council of Detroit.

Alexander was also a longtime Harlem, New York resident and an Uptown Chamber of Commerce board member. Tributes to Lois Alexander Lane were held at the Schomberg Center of New York City in July 1998 and the Design Center in Washington, DC, in October 1998.  Lois K. Alexander Lane, 91, who started a fashion institute and museum in New York's Harlem neighborhood to interest Blacks in the garment trade and highlight their contributions to the industry, died Sept. 29, 2007, at the Magnolia Center nursing home in Lanham.  She had Alzheimer's disease and liver cancer.

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