Fashion, Lookbook

I stopped wearing the color black for years, until this happened

As a black woman who wears black, a lot of my non-black friends tell me things like, “When we first met, I was scared of you. I thought you hated me!”

The color black gets a bad rap. 

It’s usually viewed as drab and depressing. And people who regularly wear all black are equally viewed negatively. But, I find the color comforting and warm, even. Black is what I like to refer to as my “high energy” color.

When I was young, fashion wasn’t something I had ever thought about seriously.

I would either put on the outfits my mother laid out for me in advance, or I would carelessly reach into my closet and grab whatever was the comfiest. It wasn’t until junior high that I realized that clothing would be an art form and a true form of expression. This was when I was the most daring with my style choices. I mixed and matched clothes and fabrics and prints. And though some outfits were more successful than others, I remained a risk taker when it to came to my fashion sense.

I remained a risk taker when it to came to my fashion sense. Click To Tweet

During the latter half of my teen years, I discovered and quickly became obsessed with the 1980s and 1990s pop culture. I watched and rewatched films like The Breakfast Club and The Craft like it was my job. It was these films with the strongest influences that left the most lasting impression on me. I fell in love with the fashion that came along with the ‘80s and ‘90s goth and punk subcultures. It was the late 2000s and I lived in suburban NY, but I desperately wished to emulate the trends I admired from the previous decades.

I quickly became obsessed with the 1980s and 1990s pop culture. Click To Tweet

The only difference, of course, was that unlike, Ally Sheedy, Fairuza Balk, and Winona Ryder (the actresses whose closets I desperately wanted to raid), I was not a thin, white girl. This was an important distinction because I was already deemed as “other” in many ways. I knew that any deviation in more traditional clothing choices would make me stand out even more.

As a shy and perpetually anxious teen, being the center of attention was the last thing I wanted to do. So, imagine my surprise when I bought and wore my first vintage jet black dress and felt like a million bucks as soon as I stepped in it. When I walked down the halls of my small high school I got stares, of course, it was high school, but the heady confidence I felt was enough to overshadow any initial awkwardness I may have had.

With age came the knowledge of what I loved and which outfits and aesthetics I was fond of.

I loved long and flowing dresses. Lace tops. Velvet skirts. Tights. And more importantly, all black everything.

'When I first met you, I was so scared of you. I thought you hated me!' Click To Tweet

As a black woman, I have noticed that a lot of my non-black friends and acquaintances tell me things like “When I first met you, I was so scared of you. I thought you hated me!” I think that a lot of this happens as a direct result the negative portrayal of black women within the media and society. Black women are viewed as these loud, overbearing, finger-snapping and neck-rolling caricatures. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a headstrong and assertive black woman (especially in a world that works hard to silence us at every turn), these characteristics are not universal.

For too long I was afraid to wear dark colors because I feared being viewed as even more intimidating and unapproachable.

I feared being viewed as even more intimidating. Click To Tweet

For thin white women, fashion is easy. They can go braless and pull on an over-sized tee and be considered a “trendsetter.” They can wear a pair of denim micro-shorts and mesh bodysuit and it will be deemed a “look.” Unfortunately Black and plus size women do not have the same luxury. They are either hyper-sexualized or viewed as sloppy and lazy. As someone who checks box in both of the categories, fashion felt like a space I could never actively participate in.

Fashion felt like a space I could never actively participate in. Click To Tweet

But, when I think of how safe and fierce I feel once I pull on my favorite black velvet skirt, I realize that this is my way if participating in fashion. I slide into a black crop top, draw on sharp winged eyeliner and black lipstick and all of these pieces and accessories become my suit of armor. 

I am armed and ready to take on a world that says that “true fashion” has to look and be a certain way.  

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Shanicka Anderson

Shanicka Anderson is from New York and is a writer and junior Pop Culture editor for The Tempest. Often and without prompting, she enjoys talking pop culture, Harry Styles, her year abroad in London, and the complexities of the Caribbean diaspora.

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