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 a photo of my mother in 1987 as a college student in Kiev. A global nomad, she grew up in Nepal, lived in Russia and other parts of Europe before settling down and raising a family in the U.S. (where she moved in 1989). Her unique style has always involved clothing and accesories she collected from traveling.

In this picture, she is wearing a thick handwoven sweater from Nepal, the kind sold by locals for the Himalayan climate, but it definitely served its purpose in the Russian winter! The shoes are from Berlin, the red cotton scarf is Tibetan, and the pants are also from Nepal. As a college student with a tight budget, she managed to be resourceful and fashionable at once, adapting cheap items she could buy back home for western styles (i.e. the classic tight pants/baggy sweater 80s trend in this picture). Her style has always been unique yet comfortable and practical, as you can see with this outfit.

Submitted by Rebecca John (Ithaca, NY).

Here I am with my mom, Shukla Reyes, in homemade matching outfits (ca. 1978). She made so many matching outfits for us from patterns bought at Woolworth’s that I don’t remember how many we had. My mother was extremely fashionable - she had furs, leopard print coats, blazers - she was always dressed to perfection. As a young woman, she moved from India to London for beauty school where she was spotted by a director making a movie about the Bengali riots called A Private Enterprise (1974). She thought she might become an actress but that didn’t work out. Instead, she moved to California and married my dad.

Instead of buying me new clothes, she passed her clothes on to me. And that was embarrassing when all I wanted was a Guess denim skirt. I’ve inherited most of her clothes and her style. Because of my mother and her dressmaking skills and personal style, I thrift and avoid trends and labels except for designer shoes (which were my mom’s weakness too). I’ve adopted her carefree, thrifting attitude - I still sew things up to fit me.

Many thanks to Rani Neutill for sharing this sweet photo and story of her mom.