Dress made by Black business owner in early 1900s selected for ‘Top 10 Endangered Artifacts’ program

Dress made by Black business owner in early 1900s selected for ‘Top 10 Endangered Artifacts’ program
An afternoon dress made by designer Fannie Criss Payne is part of the Virginia Association of Museums' "Top 10 Endangered Artifacts" program. (Source: The Valentine Museum)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Only one item from Richmond was chosen for the Virginia Association of Museum’s “Top 10 Endangered Artifacts” program: a dress from the early 1900s made by a Black business owner.

The designer, Fannie Criss Payne, was a Black business owner and Richmond’s premier dressmaker at the turn of the 20th century. A release from the Valentine Museum states Payne overcame segregation and sexism to achieve extraordinary success.

The program, now in its ninth year, highlights underrepresented communities and untold stories from historical artifacts. This year’s theme is “Conserving Diversity.” Items include World War II recruitment photos, quilts and other more.

Each item includes a description and historical background. For Payne’s afternoon dress, it reads in part:

“At a moment when white patronage of Black-owned businesses was almost unheard of, her client list comprised members of the city’s most prominent white families. Fannie Criss Payne created custom-fit dresses using the latest patterns and most luxurious materials which she purchased during seasonal trips to America’s burgeoning fashion center in New York. In January 1904, the Black-run magazine The Voice of the Negro, profiled Payne, noting: ‘The finest dressmaker in Richmond, regardless of color, is Mrs. Fannie Criss Payne.’”

Voting for the program begins on Monday, Jan. 11, and the museum with the most votes receives $1,000 to conserve the winning artifact. To view Payne’s dress and other artifacts, and vote for your favorite, click this link.

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