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Josephine Baker - Animation show designs
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Josephine Baker - Animation show designs

Morgane Baud
by JustMeMorgane on 3 Apr 2023

Designs made for a second year project focused on Josephine Baker and her life.

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Second year project centered on Josephine Baker after she was added to the French Panthéon, to celebrate her life and legacy.

Josephine Baker was an american and french dancer, singer and actress. During this project we studied her entire life, and focused on three important parts. The goal was to create designs for an animated series that would tell the story of her life, with the style of our choice.

First, her life as a dancer, moving to Paris and rising to fame. Baker was a talented dancer and it is what brought her to fame after she moved to France, in 1925. She had danced in America before but never achieved stardom.

For this first part we designed several dancing outfit for Baker, inspired by costumes she wore and other garments of the time. 

I chose to use blue and yellow tones for her costume, to complement her skin. The glitter I had thought of wouldn't be practical for animation, so I didn't keep it in the final design. She wears a dress as it was the garment that allowed me to use the 1920's silouhette the best, and i felt that shorts would be too modern, even if they were worn by dancer in historical photos. The bottom of the dress is decorated with feathers, which I chose not to add to her hair, as it would make the silhouette hard to read.

For the second design, we moved to Baker's life during the war, and particularly her help to the resistance. Baker was a performer, which allowed her greater freedom than other citizens, as well as the ability to meet with important people without suspicion. She met with important people from all Allied powers, as well as visited neutral countries. She was awarded several distinctions for her role during the war, and the way she helped the French government.

For this design, I focused on the Baker who travelled around, and how innocuous she would have seemed to various important men. Baker had money at that point in her life, and I considered several outfit showing this aspect, but settled for something simpler, a practical dress with a jacket tied around her shoulders, and a bag. The money and influence she possessed would be better showcased with an evening dress, or another performance costume. I experimented with several colors but settled on this pale green, which is serious and boring, another way to blend in and not be noticed when you're doing things you shouldn't.

After the war ended, Baker moved to another period in her life, that while no less important is not as well known.  While visiting the United States, she was refused service several times, and the segregation she had to endure made her very mad. She spoke out about it in several ways, and her influence and actions helped integrate severals clubs, as she would not perform there otherwise. She was also invited to replace Martin Luther King after his assassination, which she refused.


For this design I gave her a 60's suit, which would have been fashionable at the time, without being too forward. Baker was in her 50's, and would have favored some of the silhouettes fashionable in earlier decades. I decided on a suit instead of a dress for practicality, as well as to show a more serious image. Many didn't like Baker's participation in the Civil Rights movement, as her earlier reputation could damage the movement's credibility.

Baker dancing, referenced from a Charleston dance.

Sketch poses from the Charleston dance.


As a second part to the project, we studied the Charleston dance that Baker would have performed early in her carreer. By layering the first design on top of the poses, we got to see if it worked well, or if it was too complex for animation.


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