Runner Up for the Henry Shaw and Katrina Hazzard-Donald Award for Outstanding Work in African-American Popular Culture
From sneakers to leather jackets, a bold, witty, and deeply personal dive into Black America's closet In this highly engaging book, fashionista and pop culture expert Tanisha C. Ford investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop's baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today.
The history of these garments is deeply intertwined with Ford’s story as a black girl coming of age in a Midwestern rust belt city. She experimented with the Jheri curl; discovered how wearing the wrong color tennis shoes at the roller rink during the drug and gang wars of the 1980s could get you beaten; and rocked oversized, brightly colored jeans and Timberlands at an elite boarding school where the white upper crust wore conservative wool shift dresses.
Dressed in Dreams is a story of desire, access, conformity, and black innovation that explains things like the importance of knockoff culture; the role of “ghetto fabulous” full-length furs and colorful leather in the 1990s; how black girls make magic out of a dollar store t-shirt, rhinestones, and airbrushed paint; and black parents' emphasis on dressing nice. Ford talks about the pain of seeing black style appropriated by the mainstream fashion industry and fashion’s power, especially in middle America. In this richly evocative narrative, she shares her lifelong fashion revolution—from figuring out her own personal style to discovering what makes Midwestern fashion a real thing too.
"Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion is a powerful and compelling memoir that is deeply historical . . . Ford—an associate professor of Africana Studies and History at the University of Delaware—does a brilliant job tracing the roots of fashion and its intersection with African-American culture, music and social movements.”—Diversity: Issues in Higher Education
"A rich and exciting book that focuses on family love, girlhood, the Black Arts Movement and the closet. I loved this book. I am still smiling and embracing my memories of coming of age and creating and finding multiple identities while styling in and out of my own closet."—Deborah Willis, New York University and author of Posing Beauty
“Tanisha Ford explores and explicates the intricacies and politics of black style with the rigor of a critic and the heart of a writer. Deconstructing everything from Afros, dashikis, bamboo earrings, baggy jeans, sneakers, and hoodies, she's a master at letting us see and feel how what we wear expresses our politics and our deepest desires.”—Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of What Truth Sounds Like
"In Dressed in Dreams, Tanisha Ford gets Hurston with it, fearlessly and tenderly combing through the closet of her own black girlhood to unearth a treasure trove of sartorial choices—ones that reveal the innovative, rich and delicious complexity of black female identity. Dressed in Dreams proves that when it comes to black women 'we are what we wear' is much more than a threadbare adage. In Ford’s capable hands, it’s elevated to homage.”—Joan Morgan, cultural critic and author of She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
"There is no one more deft at weaving the fabric of our collective story together with our fashion choices and the politics that shape them than Tanisha Ford. This book will make you reminisce, reconnect and reflect anew on the fashion of the nineties, but with a Midwestern girls twist. Like your favorite album, you will want to take this journey from beginning to end."—Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage
"I love this book. It's a very funny and rare take on Black American style, and it's a Black girl's coming of age story that isn't tragic."—Akiba Solomon, co-author of How We Fight White Supremacy
“Surprisingly blunt yet lingeringly nuanced, Dressed in Dreams is a socioeconomic exploration of race, class and gender, dressed up as simple, personal coming-of-age stories. Ultimately, it’s not about the clothes.”—Aja Raden, author of Stoned
"Ford’s memoir explores the connections between Black style and Black struggle; her nostalgia for Nike 'kicks' is tempered with pain over the crack and gang era they represented ('We watched as our parents’ freedom dreams morphed into crack vapor') and anger at Nike executives who 'for damn sure weren’t showing up on our doorsteps to give their condolences to so-and-so’s mama after her kid was gunned down in their shoes or beaten and robbed for them.' Ford’s ultimate fashion achievement, successfully bucking racial profiling at a Louis Vuitton store, represents “enfranchisement . . . a feeling few black folk in this country get to feel."—Booklist (starred review)
"A professor and pop-culture observer finds insight behind the statement, 'clothes are never just garments' . . . An entertaining coming-of-age memoir from 'a proud dashiki daughter, dressed in my own dreams.'"—Kirkus Reviews
Reviews from Goodreads
We were a dashiki family in a Dickies town. And in a small Rust Belt city like Fort Wayne, Indiana, where conformity is essential for survival, this mattered. My parents were an oddball couple—one part black...