Celebrating a fashion icon: Lois K Alexander Lane

12 October 2018 by Sarah

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.

As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race.  She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more about the incredible Lois K Alexander Lane, with thanks to her family:

“My mother was born Lois Marie Kindle in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 11, 1916. I have been told everyone knew she was destined for greatness.”

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

“As a young girl, she would go downtown, look in boutique store windows and sketch the garments she favored. She was not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race. Mom purchased fabric and notions from the Five & Dime stores which she took home and produced garments similar to the ones she sketched. She made clothing for her mother, two sisters and her doll babies.

“Mom graduated from Virginia’s Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and in the 1940s came to Washington, DC and began a career in the federal government. Starting as a clerk-stenographer for the War Department in 1942 and ending her tenure in 1978 as a Planning and Community Development Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“In the 1960s, after being told by a New York University professor that Blacks had not made any contributions to the fashion world, she set out to dispel the myth that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry. She received her Master’s Degree from New York University. Her thesis title was “The Role of the Negro in Retailing in New York City from 1863 to the Present” (1963).

Lois K Alexander Lane, honoured on the Museum’s Black Achiever’s Wall

“Mom established two custom wear boutiques – one in Washington, DC (The Needle Nook) and one in New York City (Lois K. Alexander & Co.). In 1966, she founded the Harlem Institute of Fashion, an educational institute that offered free courses to students interested in dressmaking, millinery and tailoring. In the same year she founded the National Association of Milliners, Dressmakers and Tailors.

“In 1979, she founded The Black Fashion Museum (BFM) in New York City, committing the rest of her life to telling the world about the centuries of contributions women and men of the African Diaspora have made to fashion and design.”

Find out more about our Black Achievers Wall as well as all the free events we have lined up for Black History Month in the UK this October.

  1. Valerie Runcie says:

    During the early 1990’s I worked with Ms Lois K Alexander Lane at the Black Fashion Museum in Harlem.
    I was a graduate student at F.I.T. in Manhattan (training as a curator and conservator).
    I initially went to her for my internship and stayed on as a volunteer.
    Ironically, I had a difficult time getting placed in any of the major museums at that time, to complete my training.
    She helped me gain the experience I needed.
    I gained so much knowledge of the contributions of African-American designers to the industry while cataloging the collection.
    A truly remarkable lady.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Valerie, thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s so lovely to get this feedback from people who worked with Lois K Alexander Lane. I’m sure your words will be appreciated be her family and her daughter, Joyce, who wrote the blog.

  2. Robert EarL Paige says:

    My fist visit to you website, the story on “Fashion icon Lois K Alexander Lane. I lived in NYC for 10 yrs and walked by the Fashion Museum all the time. Keep up the GREAT WORK!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Robert. Thanks so much for your support! Lois K Alexander Lane is a remarkable woman and it’s so great her story is also being seen through this blog, kindly written by her daughter, Joyce Bailey.

  3. Chandra Bailey says:

    Lois Alexander Lane was an Inspiration to everyone that knew her. She a Beautiful Person inside and out. I loved her very much. She was my Grandmother. I remember going to the Black Fashion Museum and HIF It was Fascinating. Love you Lois. Chandra C Bailey

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Chandra, lovely to hear from you. Thank you for posting a comment on the blog about your grandmother. It is an honour for us at the Museum to be working with you and your family, in commemoration and celebration of the great achievements of Lois Alexander Lane.

  4. Joyce Bailey says:

    Thank you to everyone who was thoughtful enough to comment on my mother’s blog. The family truly appreciates your kind words.

    Peace and blessings,

    Joyce Alexander Bailey

(Comments are closed for this post.)

About our blog

Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.




We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.