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The Playboy Bunny Costume: Created by an African American Woman

citizen | 4/11/2013, 3:51 p.m.
It's true. Zelda Wynn Valdes, born June 28, 1905, designed the original iconic Playboy Bunny...
Renowned fashion designer Zelda Wynn Valdes designed the original iconic Playboy Bunny costume for Hugh Hefner. (Photo/Getty Images)

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Rock and roll singer Jackie Wilson poses with Playboy Bunnies at a dinner for the Motion Picture Pioneers Association at the Playboy Club on November 19, 1962 in New York, New York. (Photo/Getty Images)

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Zelda Wynn Valdes was the go-to designer for Hollywood’s brightest female stars including Dorothy Dandridge (above), Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West. (Photo by Ed Clark /Getty Images)

It's true. Zelda Wynn Valdes, born June 28, 1905, designed the original iconic Playboy Bunny costume for Hugh Hefner. And now the tight-fitting, cotton-tailed out-fit is one of pop culture's most recognizable phenomenons.

Valdes was already a very experienced tailor before she spawned the famous Playboy get-up, previously spending 18 years designing stunning costumes for the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Additionally, in the 1940's and 50's, Wynn Valdes was the go-to designer for Hollywood's brightest female stars including Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West. Reportedly, she had an amazing aptitude for beautifully accentuating the natural curves, large or small, of a woman's body.

"I just had a God-given talent for making people beautiful," Zelda said during a 1994 interview with The New York Times.

The self-motivated Wynn Valdes boasted business savvy as well. In 1948, she opened a clothing boutique called "Chez Zelda" becoming the first African American to own and operate a business on Broadway Street in New York City. She also led the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designer (NAFAD), a coalition of black designers that was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune, serving as the New York chapter president at one time.

Zelda Wynn Valdes died at the age of 96 on September 26, 2001.

By Larissa M. Tyler