Over the weekend, New Jersey teen Kyemah McEntyre reversed the time-honored tradition of wearing a regrettable, awkward prom dress by attending the occasion in this confection:
As her hashtags read, she was looking to break the internet, and according to Buzzfeed, she succeeded. McEntyre sketched and designed the empire-waist and floor-length dress as an homage to dashikis, the West African garb that first made its appearance in America during the 1960s. A sartorial teen dream, the dress was actually inspired by a nightmarish time for McEntyre, the prom queen revealing she endured relentless bullying and name calling.
But the 18 year old, who, according to Huffington Post, is bound for Parsons School of Design in the fall, has obviously found perspective on the difficult time, fully embracing her obvious talent and taking pride in her "African descent."
As mentioned, the West African dashiki gained prominence stateside during the 1960s and 70s after Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi — née Walter Eugene — began manufacturing the ornately designed traditional garments after a trip to Haiti in the late 1950s.
African-Americans gravitated towards the tunic style, a design which was originally worn by Nigerian men to fend off the searing temperatures of the region. The garment spoke directly to the era's growing militancy and a desire for black Americans to build a stronger connection to their African origins. A symbol of a mounting counter-culture, its colorful patterns defied the more "formal and tailored styles of the 1960s."
By reimagining the dashiki into a dress, McEntyre tapped into this long history of resistance and the budding designer directly challenged the staid prom style standards with the gown's shocking colorway and her leaping Afro. Just like the song "Classic Man" — which the prom queen can be seen bopping along to on the way to the dance — McEntyre is creating a whole new ideal.
Want to try the style yourself? Here are a few similar dresses in eye-popping colors that deserve a spin on the dance floor:
The Mahlia Dashiki Dress in Henna by Global Naturalista, $38, via Etsy.
Soleil de l'ange dress by Tribal Groove, $95, via Etsy.
"Angelina" Long Kaftan by Simply MaaM, $50, via Etsy.
The Nife Maxi Dress by Demestiks New York, $250, via Etsy.
Beaded Dashiki by Mara Hoffman, $236, via Les Nouvelles.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.