When I was a child, my sister, Millie, was very ill and spent years in and out of hospital. It was the most defining period of my life and has shaped who I am today. During those years, my mother turned to style for solace. She had never looked so confident, been so experimental with her look or been so physically fit. Her sadness and heartbreak for what was happening to our family left her yearning for control. Clothes became her medium for self-expression and self-preservation. Her style was her armor.
My sister is better than fine now – she’s actually a doctor and researcher, helping to find a cure for Covid-19. America’s current lockdown, due to the outbreak, has pulled a lot of things into sharp focus for me. For one, it’s given a renewed meaning and significance to style, which, frankly, I didn’t see coming. Much like it did for my mum, style has really shown up for me. Or rather, I’ve shown up for myself.
The irony that I was the only woman of color there, interviewing for a white-male job, wearing men’s pants, was simply perfect”
I have a pretty defined look – a uniform, if you will. I love graphic lines, tailoring, surrealist nods and gothic touches, all in a strictly monochrome palette. And there are certainly key pieces that have helped shape who I am today. But what’s become obvious to me now, when given the option to not get dressed at all in the morning, is that my clothes and style pillars not only bring me joy, they actually hold me up in times of need.
As something we can control during these wild times, is style merely a distraction? Or is it our armor? Dressing myself, making decisions within my control and being creative enables me to feel like myself in the midst of all this displacement. In the spirit of sartorial reflection, these are some of the pieces that have defined moments in my life in a similar way and given my closet a renewed significance…
My Comme des Garçons men’s suit pants
It was love at first sight. I lived in them, figuratively speaking, although I quite literally could have lived in them – they were enormous. I loved how much space I took up in them; I felt assertive. I wore them to my first interview at a big fancy advertising agency and stood out like a sore thumb, but felt powerful. Also, the irony that I was the only woman of color there, interviewing for a white-male job, wearing men’s pants, was simply perfect.
My loud platform creepers
During my early years in advertising, I struggled to find my footing. I’ve never felt like I fit in a ‘designer’, ‘copy’ or ‘strategy’ box, so, at first, my career suffered from this lack of clarity. My presence, my ideas, my loud voice in an intimidating room, and the thunderous noise these creepers made as I entered it, did nothing to put others at ease. I’ve built my career on being that person. I loved a tailored silhouette with these obnoxiously large-soled shoes, a skinny ankle sock poking out. Smart with a wink of punk.
My Acne Studios suit
I’m a big believer in investment items. I don’t buy a lot and I re-wear often. I’ve worn this suit to dinners and date nights, shopping days and events – and even to my most recent (successful) job interview at Nike. Some items just become like a second skin, when all you need is a slick of lipstick, or different shoes, to breathe new life into them.
My black wedding dress
I’ve never felt more myself than when I wore this dress, paired with Maison Margiela Tabi boots. Custom-designed and hand made by Katie Roberts-Wood, I was itching to get it on my bones on the morning of my wedding. I felt comfortable, larger than life, gothic but feminine and modern. It was very important to me that I worked with a young female designer; someone who embraced unique construction techniques and linked femininity to strength. I will be buried in this dress.
And, finally, thank you to cashmere twin-sets
Thank you for casting no judgment during the last two (OK, three) days you’ve served me. Thank you for making me feel fancy, mid-ramen slurp, for making a Zoom call feel chic with a statement lip or a hidden heel, and for your forgiving ways when I dart through the supermarket braless. You make being safe inside a real privilege, which it is.