Re: Being A Woman of Color and the Fashion Industry

Blogger Alicia Tenise reviews the Aerie Real Me Collection

This post is long overdue, and it’s one that I’ve been nervous to publish.

I’ve loved fashion ever since I could remember. When I was three years old, my mom went to Hecht’s without me (do you remember that store? What a throwback!) and I gave her side eye. Sorry, mom. I made clothes for my barbies with cut up fabric. My game of choice growing up was playing dress up in my mom’s old gowns. And of course, I launched my very own fashion blog back when I was in college.I loved every single thing about fashion. 
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore, Leopard Print Robe, Nude Lingerie for Women of Color

One thing I didn’t love about the fashion industry? Growing up, it definitely did not cater towards little ol’ me, a woman of color. The only prominent supermodels that somewhat looked like me growing up were Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. They were both beautiful; however, I for sure did not grow sleek, straight hair out of my head. I chemically straightened my hair to achieve a western standard of beauty from age 3 to age 18 and fried a good bit of it off in the process. I was in a pre-professional dance program in high school, and I struggled to find affordable stage makeup that matched my skin tone, or that would show up super well on my skin. I grew up feeling something was wrong with me because the fashion industry didn’t cater to me

When I was in my dance program, and I was also required to buy “nude” bodysuits for quick changes if we were performing in public, outdoor venues. Bodysuits only came in one shade of “nude,” and it was beige. It looked pretty ridiculous on me considering that my skin tone is the farthest thing from beige. My mom figured out how to dye my bodysuits growing up and ended up doing the same for the other women of color I danced with. We were forced to make it work since the products we needed in our skin tone just didn’t exist.

Fast forward to 2017: ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I was able to get my hands on an affordable nude bra that matched my skin tone. There are makeup brands out there that offer 40+ shades of foundation. I’m wearing protective styles now so that I can rock my natural, super curly hair soon. And yes, I checked out Discount Dance Supply, and slowly but surely, they’re offering nude leotards in more shades as well. Growing up, I honestly never felt beautiful or integrated into the industry as a woman of color, but I’m incredibly thankful that things are turning around. 

Aerie asked me if I wanted to check out their new Real Me Collection back in August, which offered bras and undies in all shades of nude, along with more vibrant tops and leggings that are perfect for lounging around or running errands in. I was so stoked that I could find a nude bra in my shade, I almost cried. I’ve been waiting a long time for this, and I hope the industry continues the trend of being more inclusive. 

P.S.: My shade at Aerie is called “Confidence.” 

Shop Aerie’s Real Me Collection:

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  1. India H. wrote:

    This was such a relatable post. I chemically straightened my hair from ages 13-21, and it thinned my hair out and irritated my scalp. Finding a nude was so much of a struggle I just gave up. I’m so excited that Aerie made a line of nude bras for brown girls!

    Posted 10.11.17 Reply
  2. Ruthie Ridley wrote:

    Well, I can relate to this post in so many ways… thank you for your bravery in sharing real experiences. I am SO happy Aerie made a nude bra for us girls of color. They are doing big things all around!

    Posted 10.11.17 Reply
  3. Imani A. O'Blige wrote:

    were in such a great time period, despite what negativity the news flood us with. So many people are able to share their voice, their own definition, and representation of fashion and beauty.

    Posted 10.11.17 Reply
  4. Jenny wrote:

    Loved reading your story, Alicia. Although I cannot directly relate, I totally feel for you. So cool that Aerie is taking the initiative to be all inclusive.

    Posted 10.11.17 Reply
  5. This is so incredible! Thanks for sharing your story! I have often felt the same way you did. You look so amazing!

    Posted 10.13.17 Reply
  6. Thefullcolorlife wrote:

    I love reading about your story! You are awesome. Thanks for sharing, also I made my dolls clothes too. Sometimes we know more about ourselves when we are kids.

    Posted 10.15.17 Reply