Kenny Morifi-Winslow dressed herself this morning, and believes that you should do the same
Words: Kenny Morifi-Winslow | Photographs: Supplied
Between receipts for grown up things, and the remnants and remains of problems solved and crises averted, my mother keeps a picture of me in her purse. In it, I am wearing a powder blue, floor length, high waist tutu, white Tommy tackies, and a baby pink sports-bra-come-crop top. I’ve got a hand held mask a la Phantom Of The Opera; hand on hip, and neck tilted to the side (a pose I haven’t been able to shake) beaming proudly on the staircase of the first family home I remember in vivid detail. It’s 1996 and I am four-years-old.
In an old photo album that my dad keeps next to his desk in the home office, is a picture of me in formation with my cousins, on our way to see Cats the musical. 1998 and I am six-years-old. Here, I am in a two-piece, royal purple velvet, long sleeve trouser suit with white fur cropped jacket and buckled Mary-Jane’s to match. I think the neckline had fake pearls stitched into it, but they may as well have been real because I was feeling myself before Beyoncé’s time, fight me. You think drama is your ally? I was born in it, moulded by it; I was all the way here for it.
When I was about 10 living in London, we did one of those cheesy family portrait shoots for my mother’s birthday. The brief was ‘just wear your favs’, and as every creative knows, good direction is critical for cohesive output. My interpretation of this vision however, was a ruched sleeve, blue floral print, knee length dress, over a pair of dark-wash flared denims, finished off with a matching dark wash denim boot underneath. Yes, you read that correctly; denim boot. The evidence of this very dark time in my sartorial evolution, hangs in a five-frame arrangement in the corridor outside my bedroom in my parents house; I haven’t yet figured out if this is to inspire or mock me; parents have a weird sense of humour.
For context, I went to a Montessori preschool, which if you aren’t familiar, would be the equivalent of like a hippy, alternative education, arts and crafts, touchy feely kind of institution. Kids there had pretty liberal parents; I remember my best friend’s mom made pottery for a living, lived in Woodstock and had wind chimes and stained glass plates hanging ALL over her garden. I’m pretty sure she invented veganism.
Amidst all the second gen hipsters in my class, I developed an eccentric and eclectic sense of taste. I had a thing for dolphins at one stage, and insisted on stencilling them around my bedroom, spot lit by the glow in the dark galaxy of stars that clung to my ceiling.
I found flared capris quite early too, though my dad tried to force me into brightly coloured golf shirts from Mad Dog (I’m showing my age with that reference), so to cater to both our wishes, I mixed them. Off to school I went with half a dolphin stencilled to my arm, a glow in the dark star hanging precariously from it’s Prestick position on my backpack, flared capris and brightly coloured Mad Dog golf shirt. I was a mess.
The next morning, while kissing me goodbye and wishing me a good day, my mother pinned a giant badge she had made, to the pocket of my mustard corduroy trousers. ‘I dressed myself this morning’.
Whatever happened to personal style? When did we all become carbon copies of each other? When did the epitome of taste mean the absence of flare? Iris Apfel, iconic for her unwavering devotion to her own sense of flamboyance, left only but a handful of true fashion rebels in her wake. Of course there is Rihanna, and a handful of 90’s era revival icons, and locally we’re blessed to have Sho Madjozi and Maitele Wawe as personalities to admire, but the rest of us?
I blame Instagram. I think with globalization and the homogenization of popular culture, to a large degree, we all started consuming the same things and then replicating them. I’m guilty, I know, and it makes me a little bit sad that up until very recently, I was fearless in my clothing choices, a little bit daring with my styling, and not in the least bothered by what people thought. I stand in front of the mirror now, or scroll through my monochromatic Instagram page and think to myself, when did you get so safe? So, in 2018, I vow to take more risks, be a little bit adventurous and unafraid to faux pas. I want to don my badge that has since been lost to time, but believe it all the same. I dressed myself this morning.