Diasporic Realness: A Caribbean Girl In A Conservative Fashion World

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Diasporic Realness is a Guest Writer’s Month dedicated to US telling our stories!


By: Tamara Holder

My dirty little secret is that I’m a Caribbean gal who’s a Christian and loves fashion.

I’m not even sure if I should speak about this. And it’s not for the reason you think. I’m just simply tired of feeling like I’m bearing a scarlet letter amongst those who I consider my family.

What do I mean? Well, allow me to explain.

During a staff meeting at a previous job, I heard the phrase “You’re not a Christian if you wear a bikini.” As everyone around me nodded their head in agreement, I just stared blankly into the eyes of the speaker as if I’d been hit with a ton of bricks.

WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS THIS THEORY?

I had never heard of such a generalization. After all I was born in a country where wearing a bikini was a social norm. I mean, let’s be honest, in the West Indies it’s usually hot and I haven’t really seen anyone go to the beach fully clothed (if you know what I mean). The thought of applying this statement to the masses at home made me shudder. I couldn’t bear the thought of it.

I left the meeting bewildered, asking myself what was inherently wrong with wearing a particular type of swimwear. I concluded that this was just a denominational standard and decided to brush it off. They had a right to believe what they believe, I guess. It wasn’t something I should lose sleep over. But that was only the beginning of my encounter with this dilemma of fashion and Christianity.

A few months later, I saw a disturbing article about the Christian community as a whole condemning Erica Campbell of Mary Mary for wearing a white turtleneck bodycon dress (original article:http://madamenoire.com/331705/erica-campbell-dress/). When I saw the comments that my brothers and sisters wrote on several platforms, my heart broke and then it progressed into righteous anger. Why were we tearing down our own for being glamorous and showing her curves? Did she not have a right to be proud of her body as a woman?

In my outrage, I took to Facebook with my thoughts. I don’t remember the exact words but I basically posted that being Christian and being sexy are not mutually exclusive. Did I agree with immodesty? No! Yet I also couldn’t align myself with the idea that a woman, especially a black woman, could not be style icon in her own right. Erica even quoted that her look was “about confidence and realizing that God made you and that you are beautiful just the way you are” (source: http://mypraiseatl.hellobeautiful.com/1430904/mary-mary-erica-campbell-responds-dress-album-cover/). But I digress. From that point on, I made up my mind that I wanted to shatter this mindset. However, that turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.

Now, I haven’t had offensive comments posted on my blog, nasty emails sent to me, or anything close to the kind of public criticism that Erica Campbell experienced. However, I’ve observed the backlash in more subtle forms. Case in point, the bikini comment or, for another example, the lack of support thereof for Christian fashion creatives. Even though style and modesty are now globally celebrated concepts, I have witnessed the dos and don’ts of man-made religious rules used to stifle or shame someone. What’s worse is when we’re made to feel of less use to God than a missionary, worship leader or pastor.

But that’s all doom and gloom – a necessary foundation I had to establish for you before I share what’s on my mind next.

Fashion as an industry is tough. It’s like any other thing really – if you want to do something great, it takes hard work. It’s an industry that comes with obstacles, especially when it deals with race (for ethnic women) and gender (particularly for men). It’s an industry that can pull you in and spit you out. Sometimes the wolves are within the industry itself and sometimes they are on the sidelines, critiquing you for even being a part of it. Sometimes there are no wolves and you may simply feel alone because those around you don’t appreciate it like you do. The journey is no cakewalk. But, if it’s your purpose on this earth, it is absolutely worth it!!

One thing I’ve learned is that your purpose is directly linked to your passion, and that is one of the key things that will keep you going. It is also one of the critical ingredients of greatness – a combination of your talents and helping add value to others. And guess what? It applies to the fashion creative.

I’ve come to realize that spreading the idea of diverse beauty is a ministry. I’ve come to realize that championing women and men loving themselves as they are is a cause. I’ve come to realize that showing people of all ages that they can be confident is a commitment worth making. I’ve come to realize that self-image is important and that caring about one’s appearance is not sinful.

God cares about every aspect of our life and news flash: apparel is included.


TamaraThe_Owner_Designer_of_Baydian_medium Holder, designer and owner of Baydian, LLC., is from the beautiful, Caribbean island of Barbados. In 2006, she moved to Ohio to pursue her education and earned her bachelors degree in International Business Management in 2012. 

She has made it her mission to add a splash of color and personality to everyday attire, by providing a selection of unique, hand-painted scarves with a strong cultural influence that will increase the versatility of your wardrobe.

What began as an art project in secondary school has become a fashion company with a voice, a journey and a community. Follow Tamara’s adventure via the Baydian Girl blog, connect with her on Twitter and, read her contributions to the Huffington Post.

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