Whenever we put on an Ella Fitzgerald record, her pure and perfect pitch puts our minds at ease. That soothing voice made Fitzgerald standout among bluesier vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Dinah Washington, and it reassured the Virginia native that her place was in the spotlight.
Fitzgerald got her first big break back in 1934 during Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo Theater. Intending to show off her dance moves, she quickly changed her mind after an intimidating performance by the Edwards Sisters. Fitzgerald's last-minute decision to belt out a rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy" earned her the $25 first place prize.
The jazz singer's natural talent led to her joining the Tiny Bradshaw band, performing alongside the Chick Webb Orchestra and recording a jovial version of the nursery rhyme "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," that went on to sell one million copies. Fitzgerald's fame really took off and she weathered the civil rights era thanks to celebrity fans like Marilyn Monroe.
Having recorded more than 200 albums and won 13 Grammy Awards, the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the "First Lady of Song" also deserves serious style accolades for her fabulous frocks that accentuated her curvy figure. But she may not have accepted this praise so easily.
Fitzgerald once said about her looks, "I know I'm no glamour girl, and it's not easy for me to get up in front of a crowd of people. It used to bother me a lot, but now I've got it figured out that God gave me this talent to use, so I just stand there and sing."
So in honor of what would've been Ella Fitzgerald's 96th birthday on Thursday (April 25), we are taking a look back at her greatest outfits.
Flip through our many other Style Evolutions here.