So begins the true story of Ninette Griffith, a 96-year-old Birmingham native with a silk-and-chiffon Southern accent and a brass-and-iron spirit. Funny, irreverent, ambitious, and unflinchingly honest, this elegantly independent woman lived a life that followed no one else’s pattern, a life that unfolds in these stories of reckless romance, celebrity hi-jinks, fashion disasters, and heartbreaking loss.
Ninette Griffith was Fashion Coordinator for Loveman’s Department Store in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s — a time when the downtown department store was a temple of style and fashion, and Loveman’s was one of the biggest, most influential stores in the Southeast. It was also a time when not many women had a full-time, high-profile job, a husband in the military, and a child at home, but Ninette juggled it all. "I didn't know I couldn’t do it, so I did it."
But Ninette’s story goes far beyond her career. Born in 1913, she was witness to the 20th century in the South, and her stories span the lively times of the 1920s, the dark days of the Depression, the war years of the 1940s and 1950s, and the social upheavals of the 1960s.They include tales of an eyebrow-raising love affair, hilarious blunders at home and at work, and the triumph of humor and spirit over mistakes, pride, disappointment, and loss.
Actress and storyteller Dolores Hydock collected Ninette’s stories during a series of interviews over 18 months. Now, Dolores brings these funny, tender, surprising stories to life on the stage in this remarkable one-woman play, In Her Own Fashion.
Yvette Jones-Smedley, Performing Arts Program Manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, called it "...an exquisite evening of theatre."
Click on the arrows on the photos at left and below for more video excerpts from In Her Own Fashion.
Recorded at a live performance at The Terrific New Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.
Ninette designed the "Pokey Pants," shown at left, in the 1950s. It was a radical idea: jeans made to fit a woman. The jeans were made by the Liberty Trouser Company in Birmingham, sold at exclusive stores throughout the Southeast, and made enough profit to fund four scholarships for women at the University of Montevallo before the Korean War took all the denim away.
And she did it, as she said, "Before Calvin Klein was born."
Ninette (seated, wearing a Madame Evelyn hat) judging a beauty contest in the early 1960s
Ninette taught classes in high schools all over town, teaching young women about clothing care, makeup tips, etiquette, and dating advice: "For some boys, a kiss is an appetizer, so don't serve it if you don't intend to serve the whole meal."
All video: Copyright Dolores Hydock 2010. All rights reserved. Please contact Dolores at firstname.lastname@example.org for photo permission.