Of Another Fashion

An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color

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This is my mom. In her red cigarette pants, black ballet flats, and her Vuarnet cat-eye sunglasses, she looks every bit like a glamorous starlet on holiday. The entire outfit (minus the accessories) was gifted to my mom from her more cosmopolitan older sister, who had just returned home after spending a year studying abroad in the U.S. The outfit came from Sear’s, a brand my mom then knew only through the catalogs circulating in Viet Nam. In this photo, taken in 1966, she’s sitting next to the Song Ba river while on a college field trip to the highlands of Viet Nam.

Even more than her clothes, I love her hair in this picture: its length (hard to see on that rock but it falls almost to her waist) and the bangs swept casually to the side. It’s so Françoise Hardy! My mom hasn’t worn her hair long in at least 25 years but when I look at photos of her with long hair, I feel utterly connected to her.

Some people inherit their mothers’ nose or eyes; I got my mom’s hair: impossibly thick, heavy, and straight. I’ve never been to a salon in which the hairstylist didn’t call over at least one other stylist to feel my hair. The texture of my hair means that I’m limited in the ways that I can style it (no pixie cuts for me) but its strength and, yes, obstinancy reminds me every day that I am my mother’s daughter.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom.

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    When I visit my grandmother’s house, I always gravitate towards the bookcase full of photo albums. Partially, this is...
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    This is my mom. In her red cigarette pants, black ballet flats, and her Vuarnet cat-eye sunglasses, she looks every bit...
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