Connie Briscoe, best-selling author of such favorites as Sisters & Lovers and A Long Way from Home, is at it again! This time, she’s gifted us with a surprising and welcomed nonfiction addition to her many novels centering Black women. Stepping Out is an eye-catching book for lovers of style and of beautiful Black people! A visual love letter to uber stylish Black folks over the age of fifty, it might be the perfect gift for the fashion icon in your life. Or you might gift it to yourself as a bright and bold source of inspiration to complement your dedicated wardrobe space!
We caught up with Briscoe, who graciously took the time away from working on a deadline for her next book, to answer a few questions.
Fashion over fifty is a refreshing concept! What propelled you to capture stylish Black people over this age?
So many Black people over fifty are posting spectacular, stylish images of themselves on social media. I thought they deserved to be featured in a book. It’s as if they’ve arrived at a point in their lives where they no longer care or worry about what others think and can dress however they please. Black people have always been at the forefront when it comes to expressing creativity and originality in fashion. I think it’s a way of commanding attention and respect in a society where this is too often missing. That's why we love bold colors, unexpected twists, and big, statement jewelry. This can be especially striking when the wearer is older.
So many Black people over fifty are posting spectacular, stylish images of themselves on social media. I thought they deserved to be featured in a book. It’s as if they’ve arrived at a point in their lives where they no longer care or worry about what others think and can dress however they please.
Stepping out features an array of gorgeous, covet-worthy attire adorned by celebrities and non-celebrities alike. It includes equally stunning hair styles. Did you always know that you would highlight hair in this book?
Yes. I don’t see how you can talk about style among Black people and not include hair. It is and has been a core part of our identities when it comes to style, and we often use hair as a way of expressing our creativity and individuality. Things really became interesting in the 1960s and 70s when the Afro took off. And later with locs. I love the freedom and ability we have to mix it up when it comes to hair. One day we’re rocking a natural look, the next day we go straight.
Some of the fashion influences you showcase are historical, why were they important to include?
I find it interesting and worth knowing how far back Black designers go. They have influenced fashion trends since before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln and other Washington women wore dresses designed by Elizabeth Keckley, a popular Black dressmaker at the time. The celebrated wedding gown that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wore when she married John Kennedy was created by Black fashion designer Ann Lowe. Hip-hop style has had an immeasurable impact on current fashion choices. Yet not many people are aware of these influences.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and express your individuality. Also don’t worry so much about whether something you like is ‘age appropriate.’ If it looks good on you and you feel comfortable wearing it, go for it.
What fashion advice do you have for Sisters from AARP readers?
Don’t be afraid to get creative and express your individuality. Also don’t worry so much about whether something you like is “age appropriate.” If it looks good on you and you feel comfortable wearing it, go for it.
How would you describe your style?
Although I admire other stylish dressers, I don’t know that I have a notable style. It is constantly evolving.
Interview has been lightly edited.