A Sustainable Life. Make Magick.

ReFashion 2016: Black Is Beautiful


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The Story

Black History Month aka Black Future Month ends with my little tribute to The Black Panthers and a simple and very satisfying refashion! If you follow my Instagram, you will see that when PBS aired the documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution I was fairly obsessed. I was raised in a working class all-white neighborhood in the burbs of Los Angeles in the late 1970s.

I learned respectability politics young from my southern mother and my father, an immigrant from the West Indies. For their survival and mine, I was taught it was important that as a Black person I was extra nice, extra likable, and that much more respectable than my white counterparts. It was as if because I was Black, I didn’t automatically deserve respect. Leaving the white pov or white gaze behind is complicated in this country with our very racist history. Long before Beyonce’s Formation, there was the Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers celebrated Blackness, traded in respectability politics for justice, and all the while shone for being fierce in their own skin.

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At one point in the  documentary (where yes, I was driven to tears) the filmmakers interviewed former Panthers and journalists alike on the style of the BPP. The natural hair, the sleek stylish ‘uniform,’ and “swagger!” Whether you are interested in political ideology or not, there is so much fierceness in the message that BPP gave the Black community which was – love yourself, as you are. Their message was that Black was not only beautiful but worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of justice, worthy of self-determination. There is nothing complicated about that. If you have not seen the documentary yet, do!


Boot ReFit

The ReFashion

First of all, I love these boots so hard, they were a major investment piece I bought (on sale) about 8 years ago for my first return trip to NYC after moving home. They are made for all weather and are water resistant, have lug soles, working laces, and a zipper for easy access.  I LOVE these fabulous functional boots, but after gaining significant weight they didn’t fit anymore. My smallest calf size was probably about 19 inches and my widest calf is currently 23inches.  I often prefer ankle boots, but when I have gotten higher boots, I generally got away with having them stretched at a cobbler’s shop or have also had elastic inserts put into boots. Any shoe repair can also do this simple alteration for you.

  1. When I tried on the boot years after my last wearing, they  would not close.e
  2. Reasonable people take out their laces which I recommend, but I partially unlaced my boots enough to see what I was doing on the inside.
  3. My solution for making space across the calves? Detach the tongues of the boots! Because the tongue is sewn into both sides of the boot – it can not be placed where you want it on the leg for coverage. Sometimes it’s sewn into one side of the boot.
  4. Use scissors to cut open the seams where the tongue and lacing sides of the boot are attached.
  5. Once the tongue was freed up, I had about 2 extra inches in overlapping fabric on each side of the boot newly available.
  6. At this point, you want to dispose of any loose threads.
  7.  If you like you can add fabric to both sides of the tongue for more coverage. You can also elect to get rid of the tongue altogether for a cute tongueless boot.
  8. Finally, you will want to get longer laces to properly lace up your boots. I haven’t done this yet but am looking forward to it. Remember you can always switch up the color and/or use grosgrain or velvet ribbon instead of standard corded laces. Now lace up those puppies and go!

Dress: Thrifted  Hat: ReFashioned Leather Jacket: Built to Last
70s Vintage Wallpaper: Interwebs

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Author: sweetvanessaleigh

I am Vanessa Leigh, maker, writer and witchy goddess in training.

4 thoughts on “ReFashion 2016: Black Is Beautiful

  1. You look so rad!
    I remember the black is beautiful movement and in my family it never went away. Ensconced in our little burb we never noticed the shift. It wasn’t until I grew up and started noticing some of the frankly disturbing language used in the media about black beauty, as well as an absence of more than 1 black model at a time. It’s baffling to me and seems to only be explained by straight up racism. I get that fashion is built on aspiration- that I’m supposed to see a designer’s clothes and accessories and want to imagine myself as that person. And that supposedly white women can’t identify with a black model, but honestly- I’m not identifying with any model. I’m not a 16 year old with the body of a colt and an unlimited bank account who looks perpetually bored by life. But, I am interested in striking features and great body language. And by extension that means I’m just as likely to want to buy a product modeled by a black woman as I am a product modeled by a white women. I have noticed a slight uptick in the number of black models used in adverts and editorials this year, which always makes me wonder if the tide is turning.
    I am always super nervous talking about race and usually avoid it online. I sincerely hope that by relating my personal experience that I’m not sticking my foot in my mouth.

    • Thank you lovely! I’m really glad you related my story to your own personal story of observing both how beauty standards didn’t necessarilly reflect you and maybe didn’t include some of us. It’s so true, fashion is aspirational! But what does it say when the aspirations don’t include you?. As, Black people and other people of color are seen in the media more and more we begin to see a world that reflects more of us, and yes that is important and a good thing and I think probably MORE aspirational. Like you, models were never aspirational material, even if their clothes sometimes were. Talking about race and bringing to light the reality of how racism then, and now lives under the radar and affects us all is really hard – for all of us. Not an easy conversation, but a necessary one. And by the way, there was NO foot in mouth at all! xoxo, ❤

  2. Pingback: Vanessa’s Clever Boot #Upsizing Tutorial | Refashion Nation

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