Memory. Age 5. I am playing with my sister and cousin and we are posed with a question. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My cousin responds “A doctor.” My sister responds “A Doctor.” It is my first time hearing this question but without hesitation I reply “A nurse.”
“Why not a doctor? You should aim high like your sister!” The idea of being a doctor is intriguing, but oh to be a nurse! To be a nurse and wear the green, form fitting, knee length dress. The green knee length dress with expertly placed darts down the bust, a smooth, white peter pan collar, two lines of white piping around each sleeve, and then, completing the whole look. A cap. A white cap with a green sliver smartly sown just about an inch before it touches the hair. I am convinced that my cousin and sister are silly. Anyone would have to be silly, to pass up on wearing that dress. “No! A nurse. I want to be a nurse”
Memory. Age 9. Miss Ghana is the most amazing show ever. I love feasting my eyes on the beauty of it all. The glamour, the poise, the clothes. I want to be Miss Ghana when I grow up.
Memory. Age 15. My parents are concerned that I care too much about what I wear so they ban me from wearing any shoes other than sneakers to school… They are NOT Nike sneakers. Hoop earrings and handbags are also off the table. I begin sneaking flats, hoops, and handbags in my backpack to school. My dad eventually catches me with the banned items in my backpack but there isn’t much to be done.
Memory. Age 16. I get a letter from school saying that I have been selected as a student to receive a mentor. I am offended because this mentorship program is not offered to my white counterparts even though I consistently get better grades than them. I begrudgingly meet my mentor, Mrs. Woodson. She is a smart, and witty African American woman who teaches Fashion and Marketing. Mrs. Woodson receives 2 copies of each fashion magazine imaginable, she keeps one in her class and she lets me keep the other. I peruse the pages of Vogue, InStyle, Lucky, Essence, Harper’s Bazaar, and I daydream for 2 years about writing, reading, creating, living, and breathing FASHION.
Memory. Age 18. I have arrived! Charlottesville, Virginia. The grounds of the University of Virginia are my runway! For the first time in my life, I can wear what I want, when I want. I feel like the world is truly my oyster and it dawns on me that this is what self expression is. I sing, I act, I inhale and exhale and it is fashion. The summer after my third year, I answer an ad looking for actors for a local production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”
My name is Addie, and I am a rising 4th year student at UVA. I saw your ad for auditions for “A Raisin in the Sun” and I was wondering if you have a Costume Director for this production. I would love to fill that role if it is available or assist in any way possible with costuming.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
I land my first Costume Director role. The following semester, I work as a set costumer on the film Sugarcoated Arsenic. I am a 21 year old Women, Gender, and Sexualities major who is incredibly passionate about her field of study. Topics around gender, race, and sexuality stoke a fire in me, but fashion. But fashion, my first love simply, MAKES. MY. HEART. SMILE.
As difficult as life can be, finding something that makes your heart smile is truly a gift.
Happy Valentine’s Day XX