Why I Started Wearing Jewelry

I almost never wore jewelry when I was in high school. Sure, I wore earrings but I never wore necklaces or rings. I did wear the occasional bracelet but I was born in the 90s so of course I did. But let’s back up. Why am I writing this? Well, I started wearing more jewelry as part of my great post-grad glow up and it’s interesting to go from someone who seldom accessorized to someone who loves necklaces and rings. But that wasn’t quick; it was slow, painful and involved many many lost opportunities to be even more fashionable than I was as a fledgling.

Let’s recap: in high school I had a controlling aunt who policed my image aggressively. There was absolutely an ideal I had to fit and while I don’t fault her for not letting me leave the house as I wished as a young person, that doesn’t mean that controlling nature was always handled n the best way. I dressed mostly preppy through most of high school and into college: lots of Old Navy v-necks, jeans and my one rebellious items were my black Chuck Taylors. I had my ears pierced as a teen somewhat against my will (another aunt was getting married and to be part of the wedding, I needed earrings) and I did love my earrings as a teenager. Because of hubris and an apparent lack of pain sensation, I ended up with three piercing holes in my ears and that was perfect. I could wear a pair of hoops and a stud that matched whatever color I was wearing (probably purple or black). I never wore a lot of necklaces back then for mostly two reasons: first is that I had and still have eczema and sensitive skin and that I did and still have more chest than my frame should allow. To the first point, the costume jewelry I wanted to wear reacted very poorly with my sensitive skin. Why did I want to wear mostly gaudy costume jewelry? I was a goth (still am a goth) and that meant vampire chokers, bat earrings and bracelets with broken heart pendants.  

My first job at the local goth barn (Hot Topic) meant more jewelry but it never really went beyond earrings and the off bracelet. Which brings us to the second point: I am a small and chesty thing and most necklaces I tried to wear ended up being eaten by my cleavage. That is something entirely preventable but it really soured me on the whole thing as I had a weird relationship with my chest that has continued on into my adult life. I didn’t like wearing a piece of jewelry that drew attention to a part of me that as far as I was concerned already drew too much attention.

This weird relationship with accessories stayed the same through most of high school and almost all of college except for when I began cosplaying more in earnest. Costumes meant jewelry sometimes and I continued to make costumes, I continued to wear the pieces that mattered to that character. And that’s an odd thing to consider sometimes. At times, an earring, bracelet, necklace or similar can be the difference between an okay costume and really hitting the nail on the head and knocking an outfit out of the park.

Office jobs were really what got me to wear jewelry. There’s something about wearing earrings regularly that just make you look like you’re more of an adult. Even if I’m wearing skinny jeans, ballet flats from Payless, a t-shirt that may or may not have been a gift; you look just a little better with earrings.

It was not until recently with my full acceptance of goth into my heart that I found my one true love: cameos. I’m at my core a moody Victorian poet so I love me a cameo. And after purchasing a cameo from a woman who sells them out of a trunk and claims to bless each and every single one, a long-lasting love affair began. But cameos don’t always come on chains: I had to make my own necklaces and thus, a match made in glorious Hell.

One Gifted
One Purchased
One Made

I love it now when I get a compliment on a cameo. I like building outfits around my necklaces now. I like being able to show off a part of myself in the things I wear, which brings us to another aspect of my personal style: rings.

I am not proud of many parts of my body but I do think I have nice hands. Delicate fingers, soft hands and small palms mean that rings look good on me. The problem is that I am right-handed so wearing a ring on my right affects how I hold a pen so I tend to wear my rings on my left. I am not married but it’s a good way to be fashionable while also scaring off unworthy men.

This ties back into the otaku part of me that is a constant undercurrent of my existence: decoden. Decoden is a artform that has an emphasis on cute, mini and kawaii items and I especially love decoden rings. I love being able to have a little tray full of cake or a tiny donut on my finger: I may be a brat prince but I am a fashionable brat prince. I pick up a few rings at any convention I go to and I am happy to add to my collection of decoden rings.

My relationship with jewelry has changed over the years. I’ve never been big on bracelets but I’ve worn more necklaces in the past few months than I have in nearly my entire existence. What prompted this change? I’m not sure. Maybe I am simply getting older. Maybe I am more fashionable than I was. Maybe it’s just part of growing up and changing? Will things always be like this? Who knows. Will I continue to enjoy all of my cameos and rings? You bet your butt I will.

Cultural Gentrification and You: Your Story, Your Style

“The point about pop culture is that so much of it is borrowed. There's very little that's brand new. Instead, creativity today is a kind of shopping process—picking up on and sampling things form the world around yo.png

Amber and I were having another one of our famous talks. We were discussing life and history as always but I was then quickly reminded of a recent style trend that dredged up every negative feeling I had about 2017: snowglobe nails. Now, if you are fortunate enough to not know what these are, I’ll take a moment and let you find out a little more about this “style” trend.

Now, this is extra. Really extra. Why do you need to turn your nail into a snowglobe? But it immediately reminded me of a trend when I was younger: back in the day of velociraptors and chunky blonde highlights. In my high school, black girls did extravagant nail designs all the time. But back in those days, the black women that did such elaborate nail art were considered to be ghetto or tacky. Now they’d be the stars of popular Instagram accounts and Youtube tutorials.

This is cultural appropriation and gentrification. It’s when things that were once maligned due to its attachment to minority groups without admitting to any of its history and sanitizing it for the sake of popularity.

We’re going to go over a few examples that particularly earn my ire.


Voguing

If you’ve watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, you have a base concept of what Voguing is. It’s a dance move that was popularized by Madonna in the 80s and is rooted in a the traditions of ballroom drag which was formulated and perfected by drag queens and gay men of color. Voguing is throwing shade with body movements but when Madonna popularized it at first she paid tribute to the LGBT community. She admitted that drag queens and queers of color did it better than her and featured them in her music videos and on her tours.

But as time progressed popular culture associated the act with Madonna more and more and less and less with the queer people of color that inspired and created the dance move. Voguing is an important part of the LGBT community and is a secret language to queer people all over the United States. And with Drag Race now in the popular lexicon, more and more people are aware of Voguing and are not aware of the fact that it is rooted in decades of ballroom drag. It was not something that started in the 1980s and it was not started by white pop stars. My breaking point was watching the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars and one of the guest judges (Vanessa Hudgens) had the audacity to say she was very into voguing now. Like it was a recent phenomena. Like it was something she just discovered. It exhausted me and I still roll my eyes at it every time I hear that comment.


Hair Trends

Now, I’m relaxed. That is an important aspect of black culture, I was told that my natural hair was not pretty and that I was not likely to be hired or desired if I retained my natural hair. But since forever, folks have felt it necessary to try out styles that were created by black people. Dreadlocks come to mind. Dreads are often times maligned when black people wear them for a myriad of culturally insensitive reasons. Dreadlocks are a hairstyle that formed with the Rastafarian culture and religion. They happen because of the kinky nature of black hair. So when a black man or woman has dreads, it’s often times political, spiritual and important. When a white woman or white man does it…well, let’s just say it leaves a lot to be desired. Again, the locks in dreadlocks are formed because black hair is naturally a little kinky, that sort of texture just doesn’t really exist for many others but that stereotyping does not exist for a white woman at Coachella in dreads. So while Zendaya wearing dreads gets a racist comment out of an E! News hostess, a white person in dreads is just eccentric and “worldly”.

The same can be said for many of the trends in hair braiding.

I got my hair braided a few times when I was younger and mostly for those times when I would be away from my usual hair stylist. Braids were a way to protect my roots from breakage. But when I had braids I was as far as the world saw any other black girl with box braids. I didn’t feel pretty with braids and I still look at those photos with any positivity. I can still remember the hours in the stylist’s chair and the pain associated with getting your hair done.

But when a Kardashian braids her hair, heaven helps us. Now, it isn’t appropriative because some form of braiding is almost as culturally universal as Bigfoot, but it is disappointing that something is typically seen as a negative for one race while it’s fresh, cool and edgy for another.

The last hair trend I’ll cover is weave, extensions and wigs. I’m a cosplayer and I spend a lot of time in wigs and I’m a very handsome blond.  But there’s a special relationship black women have with their hair and that means that many of my sisters in melanin have hair that they were not born with. And back when I was young in ye olden days, they were dissed for it. My great-grandmother was a snake of a woman but her wig collection was enviable. And as soon as I started collecting wigs, my aunts immediately made comparisons between my love of hair that was not mine and my great-grandmother, Ida. But let a celebrity throw on a neon wig and she’s a trendsetter.  

Long weave is a staple for many ethnic communities in the United States. They became an important way to express style for many black women and for some black men.

And that does not mean that all my brothers and sisters with hair not their own do it right. And many  of the criticisms of my think piece will be on “ratchet” and “ghetto” individuals. And while yes, there are plenty of folks who are not the pinnacles of fashion or design, the double standard is real and exhausting.


Being “Extra”

Now, in hindsight, I realize I’ve been extra my whole life. From the velvet jumpers to the always perfectly done hair, I’ve been extra since between it was a word used to describe people and not food. And back in my day, I realize now, that many of the girls and ladies I went to school with back during the days of raptors were extra as hell. Weaves that were several feet long, nails that sparkled like the hot white sun, velour tracksuits and purses that cost more than my rent payments. Today, that woman is extra. Years ago, that person was ghetto. And the big difference between what made a person “extra” versus “ghetto” was often tragically, race. Being extra is seen as a thing mostly now done by white people but comically, it’s something that many queer people and people of color have been doing easily for decades.


Speaking of queer people and drag queens, let’s take a small sidebar to talk about appropriation of language.

Queer people made up our own language decades ago. Shade, vogue, work, look, trade and more all mean something very different to the average gay man or drag queen. This language was created first and most importantly out of safety. Moons ago, being a gay man was not a fashionable thing to be and these codes and secret languages kept gay men and women safe from a hostile world. This secret language kept gay people alive and safe during the AIDS epidemic, during Stonewall and during the rough and tumble conservative eras in American History that you won’t learn about in history class. And as much as I love RuPaul’s Drag Race there’s been an entire generation and section of the populous that gets to “speak Drag Queen” without any of the background knowledge about it. And what’s even more frustrating is watching a woman at Walmart say “YAS, QUEEN. SLAY!” while also refusing to let LGBT people have the save civil liberties they deserve.

You don’t get to say “Yes, queen! Work!” and also think that gay people are still going to Hell because of religious dogma.  


Cultural gentrification and appropriation are one of the most exhausting aspects of the modern pop culture landscape. It’s right up there with microaggressions as far as things that just wear me down. Gentrification and appropriation suck the life and history out a thing that matters to a minority community, sanitizes it and re-sells it at a higher rate that often locks out the original owners of that media, act or pattern for mass consumption. But through education, careful research and analysis of media trends and a decent level of empathy: we can combat cultural gentrification together.

Coming Out of the Style Closet

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”- Gore Vidal

I am a young advertising and marketing professional.

I am an otaku.

I am a cosplayer.

I’m a traveler and filled with wanderlust.

I am a Southern belle and African-American woman.

I support multiple fandoms both Eastern and Western.

I am a theater brat.

I am a choir sister.

I am an orchestra member.

I am a writer.

I’m a lot of things. And the best way I express myself is through clothing. That’s true for almost all people. I have a lot of patterns and colors that I like. My personal style seems to be constantly at odds with who I am. Clothing is one of the most basic means of personal expression that we have but it’s also an amazing way to not commit to a particular style. As a cosplayer I am constantly becoming and changing who and what I am.

My personal style journey has been a complicated one. I spent most of my childhood as a hair show and mini-pageant baby. It was also the 90s so there were plenty of bad fashion choices made by my parents. As I grew up and became the sporty more tomboy-ish Amanda many of my friends and family know came to know I wore more denim and overalls. Lots of color. But one thing was always the same: my hair remained long. My father was very against me cutting my hair. So, my hair stayed long and perfectly manicured.

After my father died I faced an interesting act of rebellion: I cut my hair. At 13 or so I found my hair shorter and shorter and with that my choices in clothing changed again. I was a punk. Green Day, Blink 182, Simple Plan. I loved it all. Also by 12 and 13 I had found myself an incredibly dedicated anime fan, though at the time merchandise from these shows weren’t available. You kids these days, you have it easy with your J-List and Hot Topic carrying your fandom stuff. I date myself. I was also a Catholic school student so I didn’t spend a lot of time in “free dress”. I also had incredibly conservative and non-supportive aunts that did not like my punk rock music and cynical attitude and comic books that read in the wrong direction. So my clothing stayed conventional.

And then high school. Oh high school. High school was fantastic because with conservative aunties, my dress seemed to not reflect the otaku I was on the inside though it always managed to show out somehow on the outside. I hung out with the goths but was a bright pink spot in a sea of leather and black. I worked at Hot Topic but wore mostly purple and white. Then I’d spout out Maximum the Hormone lyrics and my “goth cred” was verified. But high school always felt like I was the most me. My style was a combination of preppy with argyles to nautical with blue and white stripes to general otaku wear: thank you, Hot Topic for carrying fan merchandise. But high school always felt like I was the most me. I found cosplay and cosplayers. I could be anyone. Anything. All the things. I could wear plaid and still be the otaku Amanda everyone knew and loved. College was a lot of the same. I was anime club president but also in honors societies. I was constantly in between looking like a high school age teen and a professional trying to get a job.

A few years ago I managed to get my first “real job” complete with going to an office and having to dress like a “professional”. I had learned about professional dress from the debate team which mostly involved Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits and pencil skirts with fitted blazers but working in advertising and especially as a writer, my work environment has never been incredibly strict with what I wore as long as it was more than presentable and I always have been. I could still be that somewhat preppy girl but with little accents of the weekend me via Hello Kitty rings, cake earrings, bracelets from my favorite bands and the occasional party that involved dressing up: Thank you, Halloween.

So why did I take you all on this journey through my history and closet?

Recently I picked up my first pair of Converse in years. Converse: the shoe that defined an entire generation of punks, emo kids and goths. I was one of those kids. My Chuck Taylors mattered more to me than some of my high school boyfriends. My Chucks, signed by my theater friends, anime clubbers and kept for years. Paint-spattered, messed up, faded: they were perfect. They were also murder on my incredibly flat feet so I stopped wearing them. Their expense also made them a less than attractive addition to my closet. But when I returned home for Thanksgiving, a Black Friday sale got me to buy not one but two new pairs of Converse.

I broke both in (a mint pair and a black and white pair, both low tops) and have been wearing them pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I walked into work with black skinny jeans, a black v-neck, my black and white converse and a black cardigan that I realized something: I felt like I finally looked good in something. I felt the most like…well, me. And that’s saying a lot. For someone like me who’s look never really matched all that was going on inside to feel comfortable in something was fantastic. A friend had made a snide remark about what that means about me and my character that I felt most like me in all black but it was easy to shake it off. I felt good. That’s what matters. To feel like me beyond the body image issues, dark spots (learn more about that here) and all; I felt like Amanda. The purest form of Amanda. Simple. Timeless but a medium for personal expression. It’s not the clothes. It’s the person. The clothes are an accessory to my personality.

It’s always weird for a young woman to deal with style. Society expects one thing from you. Family another. How are we supposed to be able to express ourselves and be true to ourselves and still maintain all that is socially and physically acceptable? As of now, I feel great with my new shoes and better outlook. Getting back into cosplay has been another great way to express myself and I still flash little peeps of who I am on the inside. You don’t have to abandon who you are and more times than not, the clothes we wear don’t mean much about who we are. You can be a pop princess in all black or a scene kid in argyle.

Stay true, readerships! And tell me in the comments what your personal style is!