Fashionably Black: How To Rediscover Your Style After A Pandemic

Welcome to Fashionably Black!, a style and culture guide for Black people highlighting the cultural moments, pioneers, and conversations we’ve always been a part of! Putting a magnifying glass to style & self-expression, Fashionably Black! explores the many ways we are the history, we are the fashion, and will ALWAYS be. We’re not trending, we’re true.

In September 2019, I landed my first paid internship at Refinery29. In 2020, that paid internship turned into my first big girl job working in media, and I was eager to carve out my lane as both a media professional and a stylish social editor. I often admired our editors’ office style, because one thing about working in media (specifically Refinery29): everyone has a unique style, regardless of what department they work in. 

I had a few items — blazers, denim, and blouses — that got me through in the beginning. However, I really wanted to tailor my style to fit my personality, so I began to implement bright colors, casual dresses, and tried various trends to see what fit me best. I got to explore what I loved, loathed, and simply could do without in fashion. What was most important to me was that whatever I wore needed to be comfortable. 

To be frank, now all I wear is mostly loungewear, leggings, and matching sets. My style has become athleisure (reflective of the current times), but it doesn’t truly represent my personality overall. Part of my struggle has been coming to terms with the weight I’ve put on during the pandemic, and things I’ve had in my closet for years that no longer look flattering on me. In a way, I’ve been hiding in my comfort clothes, and my desire to start actively posting fashion content on TikTok and Instagram as a style editor made me question myself a bit.

Now I’m scanning my closet to see how I can truly develop a personal style that is reflective of who I am instead of falling into the habit of buying into trends (and I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of online shopping while in the house). I’m in the groove of donating and selling items I no longer will wear while putting aside the items that best fit my silhouette. With the world opening back up and folks going back into the office, this is a time to use spring cleaning as an opportunity to purge your wardrobe.

“Part of my struggle has been coming to terms with the weight I’ve put on during the pandemic, and things I’ve had in my closet for years no longer look flattering on me.”

Venesa Coger, Style & Culture Specialist

For this first installment of Fashionably Black, I spoke with celebrity stylist Ebony Brown about the differences between fashion and style, tips to elevate your style for spring, and clothing styles that will work for all body types. Brown started out in the industry as a songwriter, but soon realized that she may have been blocking her own blessings when people would say to her should be styling the artists she was working with because of her creative and fly outfits. With 15 years of experience, she’s launched a digital course and online book, Fashionably Fearless, for aspiring fashion stylists. 

On the differences between fashion and style

Ebony Brown: “You’ve heard the term ‘the dress is wearing her, she’s not wearing the dress.’ That’s the difference between style and fashion. The component that most people don’t realize about having style is confidence. Confidence is the best fashion accessory you can have. If you’re not confident in your skin and who you are, nothing will look great on you. I think that most people are [too] focused on buying labels and buying a designer of this and design of that.”

On elevating your style for the spring 

EB: “The first thing I would say is we have to move out of sweatpants. However, if you’re going to still wear them, you have to elevate it. If you’re wearing sneakers, make sure they are clean and fresh or I love sweat pants in heels. You have to give the difference in the volume and break up the silhouette or everything is going to just look boxy. So I recommend a bandeau top or a tight shirt, especially if your sweatpants are loose.”  

[The second thing I’d suggest is to] incorporate lime green —  it does not have to be neon, more like a soft melon lime green — into your wardrobe. It’s one of the main colors for spring.”

On clothing pieces that work for all body types

EB: Bodysuits. I know it could feel a bit scary for women because we naturally think of wearing bigger and baggy silhouettes to hide the fact that we’ve gained weight. That’s the biggest misconception in fashion. But hiding it only brings more attention to it because if you wear a baggy T-shirt, it’s going to just make you look like a box. Bodysuits are contouring as well, so they can really snatch you in and hold you together. 

I don’t care what size you are, wear crop tops! The key is your crop top doesn’t stop right at the bottom of your breasts. Your crop top needs to come down to your belly button, And then your pants like right under your belly button. So you just have a little sliver of skin, but that little bit of skin looks very sexy!”

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