Black Fashion Designer Zelda Wynn Is The Creator Of The Original Playboy Bunny Costume

When most people think about Playboy, they probably think about white women. That’s of course because the magazines, movies and other Playboy related media certainly have an undeniable preference for the ‘snow bunny’.

Little attention is given to the fact that a talented Black woman is at the heart of Playboy culture. As the case with many foundational inventions in America, the black creators are often overshadowed by an institutionalized system of white supremacy. When you do the knowledge on Black inventors, you’ll see that Black people invented just about everything that was used in ancient times, and in this ‘modern’ age.

Zelda Wynn Valdes is yet another demonstration of Black excellence, genius, and creativity.

Tanisha C. Ford from the New York Times writes, “More than a half century before a “curvy” model made the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and before hashtags like #allbodiesaregoodbodies, there was a designer who knew that it was the job of clothes to fit the woman, not vice versa. Zelda Wynn Valdes was a designer to the stars who could fit a dress to a body of any size — even if she had to do so just by looking at the client. “I only fit her once in 12 years,” Valdes told The New York Times in 1994 of her long-time client Ella Fitzgerald, “I had to do everything by imagination for her.” Valdes would simply look at Fitzgerald in the latest paper, noting any changes in her full-figured body, and would design the elaborate gowns — with beads and appliques — that she knew Fitzgerald loved.”

Photo: The fashion designer Zelda Wynn Valdes, who could fit a dress to a body of any size. Credit: Dance Theater of Harlem

The article goes on to say, “What we do know is that by the time Hefner met Valdes, she was just as much of a boss as he was, with the black press touting her as “internationally famous.” Valdes parlayed her relationship with the mogul into an opportunity to expand her brand, hosting dazzling fashion shows before the Playboy Club’s integrated crowd, billed as “Zelda at the Playboy.” Valdes went on to have a storied career. She later taught fashion design classes to Harlem youth and co-founded the Harlem Youth Orchestra with Lester Wilson in the mid-1960s.

In 1970, she began designing costumes and touring with the Dance Theater of Harlem, a position she would hold for more than two decades. One of Valdes’s innovations was dyeing each dancer’s tights to match their skin tone. Until then, black dancers had spent their careers wearing pink tights that were supposed to mimic the flesh of white dancers, underscoring the racial uniformity of classical ballet.”

To learn more about the inventions of melanated minds you may also want to read “Here’s Over 160 Things Invented By Black People In America And Around The World” found here at, a blog for curious melanated minds.