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Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was an influential fashion designer perhaps best known for helping to create the iconic Playboy Bunny costume. She was also the first Black person to open a store on Broadway in New York City, and designed clothing for some of the top stars of the ’40’s and ’50s.

In 1948, the Pennsylvania-born Valdes opened her Chez Zelda boutique on Broadway and West 158th Street before relocating to Midtown. The move proved fruitful as Valdes worked with a bevy of stars including Joyce Bryant, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West among others. Later in her career, she designed for R&B legend Gladys Knight and opera vocalist, Jessye Norman.

A year after opening her store, Valdes was named President of the New York chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers. As a result of her role with NAFAD, Valdes worked in exclusive circles and word of her designs caught the attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.

Little Known Black History Fact: Zelda Wynn Valdes  was originally published on

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