In this highly engaging book, fashionista and pop culture expert Tanisha C. Ford
investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop's baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today.
The history of these garments is deeply intertwined with Ford’s story as a black girl coming of age in a Midwestern rust belt city. She experimented with the Jheri curl; discovered how wearing the wrong color tennis shoes at the roller rink during the drug and gang wars of the 1980s could get you beaten; and rocked oversized, brightly colored jeans and Timberlands at an elite boarding school where the white upper crust wore conservative wool shift dresses.
Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion
(St. Martins Press, 2019) is a story of desire, access, conformity, and black innovation that explains things like the importance of knockoff culture; the role of “ghetto fabulous” full-length furs and colorful leather in the 1990s; how black girls make magic out of a dollar store t-shirt, rhinestones, and airbrushed paint; and black parents' emphasis on dressing nice. Ford talks about the pain of seeing black style appropriated by the mainstream fashion industry and fashion’s power, especially in middle America. In this richly evocative narrative, she shares her lifelong fashion revolution―from figuring out her own personal style to discovering what makes Midwestern fashion a real thing too.
Adam McNeil is a PhD Student in the Department of History at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.