Do Racial Stereotypes Affect Your Fashion Choices?

Jessica Schiffer

Every time we get dressed, we make hundreds of conscious and unconscious decisions that are often far more complex than they seem on the surface. Choosing certain colors, brands or silhouettes may seem purely aesthetic, but that’s not always the case, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to navigating your wardrobe as it relates to your race.

Despite the occasional announcement that we live in a post-racial world, most of us are well aware that that’s not really the case. In fact, race has become even more overtly contentious in the last few years, rendering all of its implications—even those on our closets—more pertinent.

After overhearing a conversation while shopping a few weeks ago between a white woman and a black woman about how the same dress would “read differently” on each of them due to race alone, I was struck by the fact that—despite an endless slog of Internet think-pieces relating to race—not many people are exploring the ways in a which person’s race affects their fashion choices. Hair, maybe, but not clothing.

Of course, in the scheme of racial issues we need to unpack, this is not number one—but it is important, and it’s one that we likely face more often than others. As a white woman, I would never pretend to understand the thought processes of non-white women when getting dressed, so I've asked a few of them about their experiences below. But I also believe white women experience this phenomenon on some level, which is why I've included them in the mix. The results are merely a glimpse at getting dressed in a society which is far too diverse to cover in one post, but I hope that it starts an enlightening and important conversation.

Editor’s Note: the language used to describe each interviewee’s race was provided specifically by them.

Scroll down to find out what 9 women had to say on the matter.

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