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Explore the Constellation

Elizabeth Keckly’s Slippers

Fashion

Clothing design and styling have provided an expressive outlet for African Americans in both slavery and freedom. Born enslaved in Virginia in 1818, Elizabeth Keckly (Keckley) was later freed and became a popular designer. She eventually became the personal dressmaker to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife. In 1868, Keckly published a memoir that described how she used her sewing skills to purchase her freedom, support her family, and grow a successful business. Designers in the 19th century didn’t label their creations, so it is not possible to trace all her creations, but these stars and stripes slippers have been attributed to Keckly.