Frankie Welch's Americana
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Frankie Welch's Americana

Fashion, Scarves, and Politics

Ashley Callahan

Foreword by LaDonna Harris

Title Details

Pages: 328

Illustrations: 337 color and b&w images

Trim size: 10.500in x 8.250in



Pub Date: 02/15/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6048-5

List Price: $41.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published in association with Georgia Humanities

Published with the generous support of Friends Fund

Frankie Welch's Americana

Fashion, Scarves, and Politics

Ashley Callahan

Foreword by LaDonna Harris

An illustrated history of an original American designer

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  • Awards

Frankie Welch (1924-2021) combined a creative mind and an entrepreneurial spirit to establish herself as a leading American textile, accessories, and fashion designer in a career that spanned four decades, from the 1960s through the 1990s. This lavishly illustrated book provides a lively account of her life and career, tracing her rise from the small town of Rome, Georgia, to her role as a doyenne of fashion in the Washington, D.C., area. Featuring her scarf and fashion designs for the 1968 presidential campaigns, the history of her influential dress shop in Alexandria, Virginia, her connections to first ladies and other D.C. tastemakers, and her exuberant embrace of Americana during the U.S. Bicentennial, this history weaves Welch’s personal biography into the literal fabric of our country.

Frankie Welch’s Americana discusses significant designs and their creation, use, and influence in detail, while highlighting how Welch embraced and promoted her role as an entrepreneur, building a niche business that capitalized on her location near Washington and her political connections. Welch was most widely known for her custom scarves, and each design offers an opportunity for readers to view the nation’s recent past through the informative lens of women’s fashion.

Welch designed thousands of scarves for many clients, including Betty Ford, Furman University, McDonald’s, the National Press Club, the Hubert Humphrey presidential campaign, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Garden Club of Georgia. Concise and well researched, Frankie Welch’s Americana is the first book to document the ambition and accomplishments of one of the South’s most prominent fashion authorities of the second half of the twentieth century.

Frankie Welch’s Americana introduces readers to the ultimate Washington insider. With charm, skill, and entrepreneurial zeal, Welch worked her way into the closets of first ladies and other political women as a stylist, personal shopper, and designer of campaign fashions. Ashley Callahan’s lively telling of the story of Welch’s career makes an important contribution to the story of American design.

—Susan Brown, associate curator, textiles, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

The Frankie dress, the Cherokee Alphabet scarf, the Carter peanut print, Betty Ford’s Fifty State Flowers dress, Americana handkerchiefs: Ashley Callahan ties, knots, and unfolds these and a myriad of other fascinating facts, placing Frankie Welch firmly and forever among the list of most important American fashion and textile designers of the second half of the twentieth century. Reading this book is as magical as it must have been to witness Frankie tie a scarf herself.

—José Blanco, editor of the multi-award-winning four-volume encyclopedia Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe

This book is more than a biography—it’s a testament to the power of objects to reveal stories of the people who left them behind and the importance of preserving and sharing the stories of lesser-known fashion figures. Packed with detail, it feels like you’re digging through Welch’s personal archives alongside Callahan, being treated to inspiring and entertaining stories along the way. It also offers a rare glimpse into the production side of America’s midcentury fashion industry, exploring numerous facets of the fashion business from a unique southern perspective.

—Sara Idacavage, fashion historian, associate editor of the Fashion Studies Journal

Callahan, a decorative arts scholar, uses interviews with Welch’s family and archival research to reveal a detailed biography of Frankie Welch. . . .

—Gabriela Gomez-Misserian, Garden and Gun


Georgia Author of the Year Awards, Georgia Writers Association


Excellence for Research Using the Holdings of Archives, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

About the Author/Editor

ASHLEY CALLAHAN has an MA in the history of American decorative arts from Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and a BA in art history from Sewanee, the University of the South. Callahan, an independent scholar and former curator of decorative arts at the Georgia Museum of Art, is the author of Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion (Georgia); Georgia Bellflowers: The Furniture of Henry Eugene Thomas; Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska Karasz; and Enchanting Modern: Ilonka Karasz and coauthor of Crafting History: Textiles, Metals, and Ceramics at the University of Georgia. She lives in Athens, Georgia.