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Dorothea Towles Church: First Successful Black Fashion Model in Paris.





Dorothea Towles attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Texarkana, and then Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she received a bachelor's degree in biology and pre-med, graduating cum laude.
In the summer of 1945, she enrolled in the University of Southern California, studying drama and speech under William DeMille. She also began attending the Dorothy Farrier School of Modeling and Charm. In 1948 she began studying for her Masters of Science degree at the University of Southern California, where she was a member of the black women's sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.
While vacationing in Paris with her sister, Church decided to try out for some modeling assignments. Christian Dior hired her to replace one of his regular models who was out on vacation. Her assignment with Dior led to her spending the next five years in France, modeling for Jacques Fath, Elsa Schiaparelli, Pierre Balmain, and Robert Piguet.
Despite her international success, when Church returned to the United States, Pierre Balmain would not allow her to borrow his designs for an Ebony Magazine shoot out of concern that his white clientele would be offended and that the magazine's readership would not be interested in purchasing Balmain's creations.

In 1953, her engagement to a Detroit law student, Edward Bell, was announced. The engagement was called off several months later when, a report in Jet magazine noted, "she would not agree to drop her modeling career after the wedding to stay home and do the things a wife should do".

Church died aged 83 in New York City. Her death was attributed to heart and kidney disease. She was featured in the Black Style Now exhibition, which opened September 9, 2006, at the Museum of the City of New York.


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