I fondly remember my grandma Corine looking sharp whenever she stepped out in her smart hat and heels during my early childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Whether headed to church or a social event or simply to hang with family or friends, she was always so tastefully dressed. Her husband had passed away and she led a very lively social life as a single woman in her fifties and sixties living in Washington, DC. I remember hearing whisperings among others in the family about her “party girl” lifestyle. This was a time when women her age were supposed to be married, and if they weren’t, they were only to socialize in “respectable settings”—mainly at church and among family.
But I adored my free-spirited grandmother’s lifestyle. I thought she and some of the many friends in her social circle looked gloriously elegant zipping around the big city in their chic cocktail dresses and luscious mink stoles. My sister Patty and I spent countless hours giggling and rummaging through Grandma Corine’s vast collections of glittery rhinestone and pearl jewels, long evening gloves, and pointy-toe shoes while playing dress-up, in childish attempts to look grown up and glamorous just like her. To this day I think there’s something special about adults in their fifties and beyond daring to creatively express themselves through their personal style choices.
Yet because of the zeitgeist’s preoccupation with youth, older adults are often woefully overlooked and undervalued when it comes to style. In Stepping Out
, photographer Milton Washington and I attempt to rectify this with vibrant photographs and poignant profiles of an inspiring cross section of fashionforward African American men and women aged fifty-plus. Some are famous, others no less extraordinary; yet they all illustrate why the styles of mature Black adults are so profoundly meaningful and worthy of celebrating and chronicling for future generations. —Connie Briscoe
Copyright © 2023 by Connie Briscoe; Photographs by Milton Washington. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.