What I Wear At Work: Reclaiming My Space Through Vibrancy

If there’s one thing to know about my personality, it’s that I seek out the vibrant.

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I’m that girl that always carries 23 felt tip rainbow pens in her tote bag. That never leaves the house without a piece of gold jewelry, that’s constantly telling my friends to pause and look at the colors of the sky. My personal style, while always in flux, is a reflection of my love of vibrancy. Going deeper, it’s an homage to my history as the daughter of Black activists that were constantly creating in wild patterns and lush tones. As a creative, I tune in to the emotional to uncover extraordinary moments, and as a lover of fashion, I wear my love for vibrancy and lushness literally on my sleeve.

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What I wear to work is also my method for reclaiming my space and prescence. As a young, Black, queer woman, my voice and my ideas are often under question, whether in the tech and design world or in art and music. In the workplace, there’s an idea of what is and what isn’t respectable, and as hiring scandals roll out every year, Blackness is time and time again deemed as unprofessional, untrustworthy, and improper. Black women in the workplace are often described as intimidating, both invisible and hyper-scrutinized, and told to follow an idea of respectability to get anywhere in our careers.

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What I wear to work is a questioning of the concept of respectability, of how I need to look to have my ideas taken seriously. It’s the affirmation that I can in fact, wear dreadlock braids, earrings in the shape of mostera plant leaves, and a pair of cheetah print boots, and create beautiful and radical work. It’s a defiance against making myself small, silenced, and forgettable.

What I wear to work is a questioning of the concept of respectability, of how I need to look to have my ideas taken seriously.

Fashion may be the last thought on some people’s minds, but for myself, what I wear is an unapologetic declaration of presence and a reclaiming of space. Some days, walking into a board room as the only person of color, wearing my braided locs, red suede boots, and my sun yellow blazer is a rebellion in itself.

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I see the workplace as a space that requires play, imagination, and thinking beyond the boundaries of the status quo. In the creative world, boxes are meant to broken, re-shaped, and re-imagined into something spectacular. My personal style in the workplace is a declaration of my voice, the values it believes in, and the unapologetic colors it carries.  

Photography by Salimatu Amabebe