Book Discovery: Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion by Tanisha

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"Everyone from the shopaholic to the clearance rack queen will see themselves in [Ford's] pages."


About the book

One of Essence's "10 Books We're Dying To Toss Into Our Summer Totes"

One of The Philadelphia Inquirer's "Big Summer Books for 2019"

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.

Reviews and What Readers Say

“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

“ Every girl dreams. Black girls dream in bold custom colors, mixed with memory and magic. And if those bespoke Black Girl fantasies are about fashion, they are all too often done in the shadows and in the margins. That is until now. Dressed in Dreams takes you not only into the closet, but the inner sanctum of an ordinary extraordinary Black girl who discovered herself through clothes and reveals a textured and layered look on American life.”

Michaela Angela Davis, Image Activist and Writer

“ 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. Groundbreaking.”

Deborah Willis, New York University and author of Posing Beauty

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Tanisha C. Ford is a pop culture expert and star academic. An associate professor of Africana Studies and History, she has written for the New York Times,, the Atlantic, the Root, and featured on NPR, among other places. Ford is the author of Dressed in Dreams, Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads,which won the 2016 Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history. She lives in Harlem.

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