Words by Natasha Devonish-Jordan Photography by Sebastian Avila
Every morning when you leave your house you can either leave dressed for the world or dressed for yourself. Someone said that to me once. Maybe I heard it in a class, or maybe I read it in a book. I can’t remember the source, but the words are true. Every morning I dress for myself. My fingers dance across my clothes rack keeping in time with the beat of Beyonce or Nina Simone. The beat pumps me full of good vibes before heading out into the world; vibes that guide me towards clothes that reflect my good energy. Even on the darkest day – perhaps especially on those days – I rely on my clothes to carry me from home and back wrapped in warmth, love, memories and joy. I am protected by my little island of self-confidence that has grown over the years against all odds.
Many years ago, as my body matured way before my nerdy self was truly ready, I remember feeling trapped by my clothing. I didn’t feel feminine enough, rich enough, thin enough – just not enough.
I was so caught up in this frenzied negative energy and the need to validate myself that I didn’t even realise how much damage I was doing. By spending so much time and money trying to live up to what I now see was an unrealistic image for myself, I missed exploring how I could be the best version of me. Margaret Cho, one of my favourite comedians asks in one of her stand-up shows:
“How much time would I save if I stopped taking that extra second every time to criticise myself in the mirror?”
I heard what she was saying. Growing up as a woman of colour – a woman of the ‘wrong’ size – it felt normal to feel less than beautiful. Now, with my tiny island of self-confidence and self-love, I can finally say that I refuse to feel that way anymore.
I love flipping through magazines. I would die to get my hands on a couture Vera Wang gown. And, when I finally do, I will wear it to do my grocery shopping. How dare anyone tell me what I can and can’t wear? What is right for my body size or colour? I am a strong woman, growing stronger every day. Every morning when I get out of bed, I make the choice to wear things that make me feel good about myself.
I am not the value of the price tag on my jacket; I am not limited to how I can express myself because ‘black girls don’t dress like that’. When I find a dress at a market, and it’s unlike the clothes on the department store racks yet it feels made for me, I feel special.
I was never interested in fashion growing up because it never really felt like fashion was for me. It seemed to come from a factory in Milan with a subdivision in Paris. What’s more, it seemed like neither of those organisations had ever been to my neighbourhood in Boston or my family’s home in Barbados. They didn’t speak Shona, they had never visited any villages in China and they didn’t seem to know in the slightest what it meant to grow up as a woman in a multicultural society. Now I’m beginning to explore and understand how I can use my fashion to keep building my little island of self-love. The more I keep exploring my own fashion, the more I keep meeting beautiful people around me who are doing the same.
Creative Director: Natasha Devonish-Jordan Producer: Brianna Wood Photographer: Sebastian Avila
Hair & Makeup: Lina El Hussein / Chipo Bako’s braids done by Chipo Bako
Models: Natasha Devonish-Jordan, Chipo Bako and May-Ling Bradley
Wardrobe: All styles featured in The Fashion Market editorial come from the amazing closets of our models – sourced from markets, op-shops, yard sales and clothing exchanges. Each style featured costs under $100 in total (including all shoes and accessories).
Natasha Devonish-Jordan is creative director of The Fashion Market AU, a team of four, who celebrate the diverse style and beauty and show individuals how they can incorporate ethical clothing options into their wardrobe and their lives.