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Dorothea Towles Church

#OverItMoment: Church was working for Balmain in the 1950s, but when Ebony magazine wanted to photograph her in his latest collection, Balmain’s publicist didn’t approve of the shoot because the brand feared it would hurt sales among his white customers in America. So when Church returned to America in 1954, she brought trunks of couture dresses that she bought with her model’s discount and toured black colleges showing off the collection and raising money for over 200 branches of the nationally renowned black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.


Dorothea Church was born on  July 26, 1922 in Texarkana, Texas. She received her master’s degree in education at USC in the late ‘40s, where she joined the nationally acclaimed black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Church later studied at the Dorothy Farrier Charm and Modeling School, becoming the school’s first black student. Around that time, Dorothea began working as the only black model in Europe for esteemed designers, such as Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, and became the first successful black model working in Paris, France. Her groundbreaking career paved the way for more black models to be accepted in the modeling world both in Europe and North America. In 1954, she brought trunks of couture dresses back to America to curate a touring fashion show with local professional models and college students. She used the shows to raise money for over 200 branches of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

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