About the Exhibit

The North Carolina Museum of History boasts an extensive collection of formalwear created by famed Raleigh designer Willie Otey Kay (1894–1992). When a 2014 museum social media post featured one of Kay’s creations, an outpouring of public interest prompted staff to create a temporary exhibit of Kay’s designs that would also explore the social context of her life and work.

Made Especially for You by Willie Kay brought together Kay’s family, former clients, and acquaintances, and introduced new generations to her story.

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Physical Exhibit

Located in the museum’s lobby, Made Especially for You by Willie Kay opened on January 16, 2016, and closed September 5, 2016. Three interpretive sections explored Kay’s family, business, and community involvement. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the exhibit, the museum project team decided to add four “bonus” displays to supplement the show in the chandelier room adjacent to the exhibit gallery.

Bonus display dates were January 14-28, 2016, March 12-17, 2016, June 2-19, 2016, and August 22-September 5, 2016.

Works Cited/Primary Sources

Oral History Interviews

  • Campbell, Eddie. Interview by Earl Ijames. December 2, 2015.
  • Campbell, William. Interview by Earl Ijames. December 1, 2015.
  • Christmas, Mildred Campbell. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. December 4, 2015.
  • Ennis, Eric. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. August 26, 2015.
  • Jervay, Marion White. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. November 6, 2015.
  • Kay, Wanda Camille. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. November 17, 2015.
  • Kay, Willie Otey. Raleigh’s Roots: An Oral History of the African-American Communities. Interview by  Tim Tyson and Carl Devane. July 8, 1988. Special Collections, Richard B. Harrison Community Library,  Raleigh, NC.
  • Lewis, Elizabeth Constant. Interview by Earl Ijames. December 15, 2015.
  • Taylor, Bessie and Carmen Martin. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. December 7, 2015.
  • Taylor, Mildred Otey. Raleigh’s Roots: An Oral History of the African-American Communities.  Interview by Tim Tyson. July 8, 1988. Special Collections, Richard B. Harrison Community Library,    Raleigh, NC.
  • Wright, Donna Kay. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. December 18, 2015.
  • Zevenhuizen, Cathryn Cheek. Interview by Diana Bell-Kite. June 9, 2015.

Newspaper Articles

  • Associated Press. “Raleigh Dressmaker’s Fame Has Spread Across Country.” Durham Morning Herald     (Durham, NC), September 4, 1961.
  • Burch, Mary. “RWCA honors its founders.” The Raleigh Times (Raleigh, NC), January 16, 1980.
  • “Delaney-Hines Nuptials Held in Historic St. Ambrose Church.” The Pittsburg Courier (Pittsburg, PA),  October 23, 1943.
  • “Five New Links Installed in Raleigh.” New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, VA), March 29, 1952.
  • Freeman, Minnie H. “Women’s World: Of Special Interest To Feminine Readers: Report From  Raleigh.” New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, VA), June 26, 1954.
  • “Guests at recent luncheon at Raleigh’s Downtowner Motor Inn.” The Carolina Times (Durham, NC),    February 4, 1967.
  • Hall, Douglas. “Famous N.C. Designer Had Career ‘Dumped into Lap.’” The Afro-American   (Washington, DC), February 10, 1951.
  • Johnson, Toki Schalk. “Toki Types.” The New Courier (Pittsburg, PA), February 11, 1967.
  • Jones, Ramona. “The dressmaker.” The Raleigh Times (Raleigh, NC), September 7, 1981.
  • Kolin, Bob. “Longtime civil rights activist honored.” News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), January 16, 1980.
  • Lennon, Thelma Cumbo. “Links Memorialize Charter Member and Preeminent Raleigh Designer.” The      Carolinian (Raleigh, NC), October 1, 1992.
  • McLaurin, Alison. “Willie Otey Kay, dressmaker.” News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), September 29, 1992.
  • “Raleigh Links to Area Meeting.” The Carolina Times (Durham, NC), March 4, 1961.
  • Smith, Coline. “Willie Kay, Raleigh Stylist-Dressmaker, Enjoys Romance of Debut, Bridal Outfits.” News   & Observer (Raleigh, NC), August 27, 1949.
  • Smith, Samantha. “Kay dressed for success: Dressmaker was famous across Triad.” Daily News     (Jacksonville, NC), December 27, 2006.
  • Smith, Samantha Thompson. “The bride princess.” News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), December 18, 2006.

Other Primary Sources

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Collection, 1972–2003. State Archives of North Carolina.
  • Leonard Medical School, Shaw University. Twenty-Eighth Annual Catalog of The Officers and Students  of the Leonard Medical School, The Medical Department of Shaw University. Edwards & Broughton  Printing Company, Raleigh, NC.: 1908.
  • National Association of College Women, Raleigh Branch. “Raleigh National Association of College  Women Presents the Chorale Groups of St. Augustine’s College and Shaw University.” March 6, 1964.
  • Shaw University. Shaw University Bulletin: Alumni Number with Founder’s Day Announcements, Vol.  XXXII, October 1962.
  • “Summer Party in Charlotte, N.C.” Life July 9, 1951.

Secondary Sources

  • Ayers, Edward L. The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction. New York: Oxford  University Press, 1992.
  • Brown, Leslie and Anne Valk. “Black Durham behind the Veil: A Case Study,” OAH Magazine of History 18, no. 2, (2004): 23–27.
  • Calasibetta, Charlotte Mankey. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, 2nd Edition. New York: Fairchild    Publications, 1988.
  • Chafe, William H., ed. Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated  South. New York: The New Press in Association with Lyndhurst Books of the Center for Documentary  Studies of Duke University, 2001.
  • Edmisten, Lina Harris and Linda Simmons-Henry. Culture Town: Life in Raleigh’s African American  Communities. Raleigh, NC: Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, Incorporated, 1993.
  • Gatewood, Willard B. Jr. “Aristocrats of Color: South and North The Black Elite, 1880–1920,” The  Journal of Southern History 54, no. 1, (February 1988): 3–20.
  • Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Gender & Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North  Carolina, 1896–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Gold, Annalee. 90 Years of Fashion. New York: Fairchild Fashion Group, 1991.
  • Hoelscher, Steven. “Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South,”  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 93, no. 3, (2003): 657–686.
  • Lansdell, Avril. Wedding Fashions, 1860–1980. Princes Risborough, UK: Shire Publications, Ltd., 1997.
  • Litwack, Leon F. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. New York: Alfred A.  Knopf, 1998.
  • McAndrew, Malia. “Selling Black Beauty: African American Modeling Agencies and Charm Schools in Postwar America,” OAH Magazine of History 24, no. 1 (January 2010): 29–32.
  • ____________. “Jim Crow Blues,” OAH Magazine of History 18, no. 2, (2004): 7–11, 58.
  • Mo, Charles L. Evening Elegance: 150 Years of Formal Fashions. Charlotte, NC: Mint Museum of Art,  1998.
  • _____________. To Have and To Hold: 135 Years of Wedding Fashions. Charlotte, NC: Mint  Museum of Art, 2000.
  • Murray, Maggie Pexton. Changing Styles in Fashion: Who, What, Why. New York: Fairchild  Publications, 1989.
  • Niven, Felicia Lowenstein. Fabulous Fashions of the 1950s. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers,  Inc., 2012.
  • Peacock, John. Fashion Sourcebooks: the 1950s. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1997.
  • Picken, Mary Brooks. A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern. Mineola, NY: Dover  Publications, Inc., 1985.
  • Reaves, Bill, and Beverly Tetterton. Strength through struggle: the chronological and historical record  of the African-American community in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865-1950. Wilmington, NC: New  Hanover County Public Library, 1998.
  • Ritterhouse, Jennifer. Growing up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
  • Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.