Essence Festival Street Style Is All About Staying Cool

Essence Festival is more than a celebration of music, style, culture, and entrepreneurship in the Black community, although it has all of those things. For me, the 3-day event is more like a family reunion, a homecoming of sorts. It's a safe space where I can exist freely, without the looming threat of white supremacy or the incessant glare of the white gaze. There's no explaining my hairstyle (box braids) or why Michelle Obama is my forever first lady or why I never put my purse on the floor. There's an innate sense of belonging shared by the half a million festival attendees that come to New Orleans each year (a number that surpasses Coachella by the thousands). Essence Festival feels like home.
It's also a treasure trove for fashion inspiration. In the New Orleans humidity, Black women dress for style and sun, in breezy silhouettes and lightweight fabrics. The styling is somehow put together and effortless, like a one-and-done jumpsuit worn with cornrows or a curly 'fro. This year, we especially favored graphic tees, pairing them with leopard skirts and sneakers, or fringe and Birkenstocks. And in the midst of the heat wave, we were still remarkably trend-conscious, embracing monochromatic looks, print mixing, and romantic florals (the latter by way of my favorite Rhode dress).
Click through for a master class on summer dressing, from the stylish women at Essence Festival 2019.

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