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Harlem Nights.... Fashion in Film

Updated: Apr 17

I can remember when I first caught a glimpse of Jasmine Guy in this movie.... In this dress... although I was only 4 years old when the movie "Harlem Nights" premiered in 1989, and the fact that it was very much rated R, didn't keep me from eventually watching the TV edited version when I was a little older... I mean it was a real moment for me, she was black, she was glamorous, her name was Jasmine (not in the movie) and she was dripping in pink satin, lace and feathers!

The filmed debuted in 1989 and was set in the 1930's. The entire movie was just a non stop, visual masterpiece as far as I was concerned, (I would have a similar reaction to the film 'The Great Gatsby", both versions). In my mind this is where the marriage of cinematography and fashion dance a beautiful waltz. Leaving an imprint upon your brain and allowing you to escape into a time and era you may never get to experience.

I sat down recently and rewatch the movie, for the first time unedited and completely unrepentant lol. Before I share with you some of my favorite fashion images from the movie, I wanted to briefly acknowledge the costume designers that brought this film to life.

Key Costumers;

Norman A. Burza ( there weren't any images of him I could find) he was born March 15,1934 he was active for many years and his other movies included "Gremlins", "My Girl 2", & "Apocalypse Now". He died June 5, 2002 (eerily that is my birthday).

Andrea E. Weaver born November 20, 1944 , currently 75 years old, her film credits include "Raging Bull", "Robin Hood, Men in Tights" & "Seabiscuit" to name a few.

Assistant Costume Designer;

Violette Jones-Faison Unfortunately I was unable to find any personal information on Violette other than the fact that she is still active in films and her credits include "Get Smart Again", "The Fresh Prince of BeL-Air", and "Class Act" .

Now let's see the their work in "motion'.

Jasmine Guy in this gorgeous red ensemble matching gloves, golden embroidery adorns the cape, & the center front bodice, her hair and make-up beautifully complimenting the look.


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Dripping in diamonds and feathers, the long stemmed cigarette and power red nails exude power and elegance!

The glamorous "pink dress" scene. It was so amazing to see this "over the top" feathered robe, look so elegant & dreamy without swallowing her up.

An elevator scene of an actress who was literally on screen for seconds, shows that detail was very important and authenticity was implemented for every character no matter how small the role.

The way Della Reese was dress in this film was so insync with her character, she spared no expense and took no none sense. Fringe, cocktail hats, Long fingerless gloves, diamond brooches, and of course gold lame and fur!

Lela Rochon was yet another scene stealer in her elaborate frocks, headwear, feathers and diamonds.


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It was impossible to choose just one image, she shined in all her garments.

Lastly Berlinda Tolbert, the wife of one of the main characters (played by Richard Pryor) was all business and elegant in her embroidered dresses, jeweled turbans and flawless make up, rounding up the key ladies of the film.

Be sure to check out my original Designs

Have you seen the movie? If so what was your favorite look (male or female). If you have not, I encourage you to check it out, (after the kiddies are sleep of course).

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Jasmine Terry-Ankobil owner and operator of LAIDIECLOTH fashion house, where I create custom designs and perform alterations for formal occasions. &Online Couture Sewing School LAIDIECLOTH U. Please feel free to share this article and/or visit my site

1 Comment

I absolutely love this article. The details and information towards each characters style is on point to describe their personalities. Harlem Nights is truly inspiring to many fashion lovers and fans of the film.

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