We found this when we were going through my grandma’s photos (after she passed away on April 29, 2012 at the age of 98). It’s taken in Los Angeles. I forgot about this photo but it’s one of my favorites. It was taken in the 1930s and the dress was likely made by my grandma, like a lot of her clothes.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

Alice Miyeko Odama (July 16, 1913 - April 29, 2012)

OF ANOTHER FASHION wishes to extend our sincere condolences to Cheryl Motoyama and her family on the recent passing of Alice Miyeko Odama. Longtime subscribers of OF ANOTHER FASHION know that Cheryl has generously shared numerous photos and some truly amazing stories of her beautiful family and especially her lovely grandmother.

The picture above is not only one of my favorites of “the Japanese movie star” Alice Odama (nee Ishizaki) but one of my favorites of the entire collection. 

For more of Ms. Odama, click the #AliceOdama tag at the bottom.

In the 1930s, a doctor left my grandmother Alice Ishizaki (above) a house in his will - as thanks for cleaning his home. His family contested the will and she ultimately lost the case. My mom remembers seeing newspaper clippings about the case and tells me that my grandmother was described only as “the Japanese movie star”.

It was her movie-star beauty that helped her become (according to my family) the first Asian American to be hired at either Broadway or Bullock’s department store in Los Angeles.** Although the department store had a policy about not hiring women of color, they hired my grandmother on the spot when they saw her because she had flawless skin. She worked for a number of years at their make-up counter.

When FDR signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, she and her family were forced to move to Gila River internment camp.

My grandmother will be 98 years old this year. She was always very fashionable. She’s been using Elizabeth Arden day and night cream since the 1950s and still uses it today. It’s one of her main beauty tips. Her other beauty tips include wearing sunscreen, shades for the eyes, and gloves for your hands. Always wear bright lipstick. Always stretch. She still does all of these things today.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

**At the turn of the century, when retail sites, especially department stores, held out the promise of economic and social independence for white women as consumers and workers, Asian American women were prohibited from participating in these sites in either capacity. Historically associated with cheap and servile labor, they were deemed a degrading presence in retail shops. [From my journal article “The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terrorism” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36.2 (2011)]

When I showed my grandmother Alice Ishizaki this photo (ca. 1918), she started laughing really hard because of the giant bow on her head. She’s about 5 years old in this photo. “That is so awful. That’s the worst hair style I ever had. Look at that bow. Horrible!” She’s posing with her parents, my great grandparents. My grandmother, Uno Ishizaki, mostly made her own clothes and likely made the outfit she’s wearing. The photo was taken in Oakland, California.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).

These are my maternal great grandparents with their daughter, my grandmother Alice Ishizaki (ca. 1920s) who’s about 9 or 10 years old here. My great grandmother, Uno Ishizaki, mostly made her own clothes so the outfit she’s wearing was probably homemade. This photo was taken in a studio in Los Angeles.

Submitted by Cheryl Motoyama (Santa Ana, California).