By Zaria Howell
As my talent for my second-grade fashion show, I was a fashion designer. I guess I knew at a young age that I loved clothes, and the ability to use them to strengthen my confidence and sense of self.
I have fond memories of experimenting with fashion in a way that helped me gain a stronger understanding of my identity. In sixth grade I remember slaving over my bathroom counter before school trying to copy Lady Gaga’s iconic hair-bow. I also remember pairing that hair-bow with one of my father’s bowties, and the stares from peers that came with it. But I didn’t care, I felt so strong. From that point forward I used clothes, and fashion, as a tool to strengthen my confidence.
As I got older, I started to bond with my parents over clothes, as they too had a passion for dressing. I have vivid memories of my father and I comparing our socks every morning--a ritual representative of our lifelong love of cool socks. Similarly, at age fifteen I remember raiding my mom’s closet, looking for anything that might satisfy my hunger to dress as if I were living in the 90s. I wanted high-waisted jeans, fishnets tops, the whole shebang. What I ended up finding was a pair of high-waisted denim shorts. I cherished them like my life depended on it. They fit me like a glove, and as I wore them I felt like I was reliving my mother’s teen years. They gave me so much power; how was a pair of denim shorts able to support the experiences of two generations? As I wore them I felt my own connection to my femininity and race growing, but simultaneously I also absorbed the confidence that my mother must’ve felt when she wore the shorts herself. How is it that as I wore them I felt the presence of my mother?
To this day, fashion is something that my parents and I bond over. I’ve learned valuable lessons on how to carry myself with confidence and embrace my femininity through this relationship that my parents and I have with fashion. It has been one of the most essential aspects of my upbringing. It is through this bond between fashion and my identity, that I learned to embrace my womanhood and blackness, as I saw my mother and grandmothers do. Fashion became a fabric of my life, inspiring me to love myself a little more each day. Even now, as a freshman in college, I cherish those denim shorts and wear them when I miss home, or need the confidence of two generations of Howell women.