So, prom season just ended not too long ago and I loved seeing soon to be graduates show out for one of the best nights of their lives. Mermaid dresses and print tuxedos seemed to be the preferred aesthetic for Class of 2016, and oh, African print.
Okay, don’t get me wrong. I am immensely Pro-Black, all of my social media and my mere existence proves that sufficiently. However, I have to wonder, because this generation tends to do this a lot, if it was worn because of pure love of self and culture or just vanity? I am not negating the ones who truly understand the weight and beauty of African print and there is no way of knowing who truly knows.
But let me take you back a bit to last year.
Meet Kyemah McEntyre. She ‘broke the internet’ last year with her handmade prom dress. She designed the dress as a counterattack to being bullied when she was younger. “The Dress That Broke the Internet” instantly turned McEntyre into an overnight success. She was then asked to design a dress for actress, Naturi Naughton for the 2015 BET Awards. She gained universal props all over social media for both dresses and even earned a feature in Teen Vogue.
So, I have to be the asshole and question, was there a sense of newfound “wokeness” and enlightenment with the dresses or was the allure of social media fame a factor? It may seem like something so vane and unimportant to worry about, but African print is not just a “pretty” fabric. There are many types and each color within these fabrics has a meaning. So to think it being worn just because it’s aesthetically pleasing and might win you some likes and shares, it’s kind of disrespectful. Especially to the women and men who take immense pride in their culture.
Makalaya Zanders (imaged above), wore this stunning Ankara print dress in attempt to feel connected to her heritage, but prior to her big night she tried to get it approved to wear (which I think she shouldn’t have done) by a white administrator at her school, she was told it was “tacky.” But, Zanders figured that administrator tried it and wore it anyway. Yes girl.
Even if it is just a fad, which I truly hope it isn’t, the fact that Black people are looking to their roots and celebrating their roots is absolutely glorious. With all the social tension going on, we need connection to self and heritage more than ever now.
Raquel Stewart, Fashion Editor