Selena's Leather Outfit

Selena's Leather Outfit

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From doo-wop and country blues, to polka and hip-hop, Tejano music is made by borderland musicians forced to understand the value of cultural exchange. Performing a fusion of cumbia, pop, and contemporary Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (1971–1995) was a young star whose rise and hard-won fame in the United States and Latin American markets was cut short at age 23, when she was murdered by a business manager fired for stealing. Selena was a commercial success in ways unimaginable for her more rootsy predecessors like Flaco Jiménez, Freddy Fender, or Little Joe. This outfit, with its leather boots, tight pants, a satin bustier, and a motorcycle jacket, is an example of Selena's idiosyncratic style, wavering between sexy rebel and Mexican American good girl. Hailing from Lake Jackson, Texas, Selena was born into a family of musicians. Because she grew up speaking English, she had to learn to sing Spanish phonetically on her early albums that targeted the Spanish-speaking market. Ironically, her "cross-over" material for English-language radio was not released until the end of her career, shortly after her tragic death. Selena, who spent her childhood in her family's band entertaining crowds at weddings, restaurants, fairs, and other modest venues along the U.S.-Mexico border, remains enshrined in the memory of many as one of the greatest stars of Tejano music.
Description (Spanish)
Desde el doo-wop y el country blues, hasta la polka y el hip-hop, los compositores de música tejana se han visto forzados por la frontera a entender el valor del intercambio cultural. La cantante Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (1971-1995) interpretaba una fusión de cumbia, pop y música tejana contemporánea. La joven estrella surgió y a duras penas llegó a la fama en los mercados de Estados Unidos y Latinoamérica, pero su carrera quedó truncada a la edad de 23 años, cuando fue asesinada por una ex manager a quien había despedido por robar. Selena fue un éxito comercial de un modo jamás imaginable por sus predecesores más tradicionales como el Flaco Jiménez, Freddy Fender o Little Joe. Este traje, integrado por botas de cuero, pantalones ajustados, corsé de raso y chaqueta de motociclista, ejemplifica la idiosincrasia de un estilo que oscilaba entre la rebelde sexy y la niña buena mexicoamericana. Procedente de Lake Jackson, Texas, Selena nació en el seno de una familia de músicos. Como creció hablando inglés, debió aprender a cantar en español por fonética para grabar sus primeros álbumes dirigidos al mercado de habla hispana. Irónicamente, su material crossover para la radio en inglés no salió al aire hasta el final de su carrera, poco después de su trágica muerte. Selena, quien pasó su niñez en medio de la banda de música familiar, actuando en celebraciones de bodas, restaurantes, ferias y otros modestos escenarios a lo largo de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos, vive aún consagrada en la memoria de la gente como una de las grandes estrellas de la música tejana.
Object Name
North Beach
Place Made
China: Hong Kong
Physical Description
glass (beads material)
leather (overall material)
metal (zippers; buckle; beads material)
overall: 25 in x 17 in; 63.5 cm x 43.2501 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of The Quintanilla Family
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Popular Entertainment
Music & Musical Instruments
Mexican America
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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This is a beautiful and unique outfit. It's one of favorite Selena's designs. She made her style by wearing leather and sparkles on it. I can't wait to go to DC in a few days to see it. The statue in Corpus has this outfit. We "Tejanos " or "Texans " feel very proud to have been represented by such a wonderful person. Forever in our hearts!
Selena is a vital part of Chicano history/culture. She definitely deserved a place in the Museum. Thank you for displaying the item.

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