So, like I said in my last post, I’ve been space clearing. I don’t mean just going through a pile of papers or one box of photos or a closet. This is a whole house. It’s all going down at my childhood home where I grew up – the only house I grew up in, the house with an attic, the house with a closet under the stairs, that once had whole bedrooms devoted to storage, with endless forgotten kitchen cabinets and the house with a deck full of tarp covered boxes.
Although it is emotionally exhausting going through your whole life history, there is a ton of benefits. For example, revisiting different chapters of your own style through photographs, letters, sketches, music and maybe even a few articles of clothing can teach us a lot about ourselves. One such chapter I revisited with enthusiasm was the Sade chapter.
In terms of music appreciation, there is no Sade chapter. She has been my favorite vocalist since I discovered her in the 80’s. With no other artist would I read every word of every song she wrote before putting the new vinyl on the turntable for the first time. Her lyrics are just as important to me as her delivery, her vocal sound, and the band’s musical collaboration with her. In 1987, as I completed my Tess chapter over the summer, I entered college ready to embrace the Sade chapter of style.
While the Tess chapter was a country bath full of lavender flowers that washed away all of the glitz of eighties blue eyeshadow and Wham U.K. day glow, the Sade chapter was about growing up into an artist with classic and sophisticated style that was at the same time European and embraced diversity. Sade represented a simplicity that spoke of strength and individuality. I felt like I had a lot in common with her at the time. She was born in Nigeria, grew up in England, went to art school where she studied fashion, and afterwards when she helped out some friends who needed backup vocals, found her love of writing songs. I also felt like I was bicultural growing up in Southern California with a firm grounding in all things Mexican. I got into fashion school, made a detour to an art major, where I also “helped out” some friends who needed vocals for their electronic music class. Lyrics also came to be one of my favorite parts of the music process as well.
My Sade chapter of style really took off when I decided to be her for Halloween in 1987. Of course, I doubt anyone knew who I was channeling at the time. I continued with this inspiration on and off for at least a year. Hair pulled back, red lipstick, gold hooped earrings, with a lot of denim, black and white. At one point, I even found it necessary to invest in a black bolero hat. The best word to describe what I thought of her style at that time would have to be “cool”. Just like her approach to creating and her approach to life, her style expressed integrity, brevity, a sense of being comfortable in her own skin. For a woman of color who was expanding her “languages”, it was a whole collection of qualities that could help me make this transition from girlhood to adulthood.
Pulling a black dress from the way back of my closet, which I wouldn’t normally wear these days, as I am so addicted to color, I paired it with a white shirt that was a recent thrift store find. Black and white? What was I doing? So unlike me these days. And then it hit me. The Sade style chapter was making an appearance – a result of all this unearthing of the past. The gold hoop earrings are updated. One side of my head is now pretty short as it’s pulled back. Red lipstick? That hasn’t gone anywhere. Some things just stick.
I like the idea that time is a circle. My synesthesia lets me see this moment as a spinning wheel, each spoke in the wheel a different moment – past, present, with inklings of the future. As they spin together, they become a beautiful blur, the miracle of our evolution.