If there's one thing we've recently learned about our readers, it's that y'all can really spin a yarn. In April, we joined forces with Macy's on a contest calling for your most stylish, evocative, take-me-back-#tbt-inspiring summer stories; now, once again in partnership with the legendary department store, we're delighted to present our three deserving winners, who captivated us with their tales of sultry nights salsa-ing under the stars and fulfilling days spent in service of their communities.
Below, we've brought these recorded memories of free-floating festivals and colorful locales (back) to life in an original photo shoot starring their authors. Keep reading ahead, and prepare to be transported immediately to the heady, open-hearted, anything-can-happen feeling of summer.
It's summer 2018, and the 21-year-old student from Philadelphia is working on a Pennsylvania congresswoman's campaign. As the election reaches a fever pitch, soundtracked by the buzz of the auto-dialer, Stone learns to reclaim the feeling of standing apart with her idiosyncratic style — and a box of blue hair dye.
"The summer was spent simmering in preparation for the boiling point of the midterm elections. While the campaign staff were incredibly passionate and skilled, one thing I was hyperaware of was that I was the only person of color [on staff]. At times it made me want to shy away and keep my opinions and perspectives to myself, but I quickly learned that the best way to approach the situation was to embrace it. I didn't try to dress 'professional;' I dressed like myself. I wore fun prints and loud earrings. I dyed my hair blue in [support of my party]. At political events, I didn't attract attention as an odd person out but because I commanded it.
"It's funny, because in the beginning, I wanted to quit. There was a part of me that felt like I didn't really fit in. So it was either step completely away or lean in as much as I possibly could — and that's what I did. And throughout the summer, my personal style ended up helping me embrace my uniqueness and connect with other people who also stood out in the community."
SHOP HER SUMMER STORY
Where's a newly minted passport-holder to go? For Mungro, a 26-year-old model and part-time server from North Carolina, the answer is Cancun. On this horizon-expanding trip from 2017, she salsas in the street among locals and fellow visitors alike, and finds a sense of familiarity as she — and her serendipitously pitch-perfect outfit — become part of a whirling riot of color.
"After having my passport for a whole year and a half, I decided that my first trip [outside the U.S.] would be to Cancun, Mexico. I was completely stoked with the culture and the warm weather. Everything around me [in downtown Cancun] was lively and splashed with color. The air was filled with notes of carne asada and horchata, sweet melodies of cinnamon and rice and savory notes of beef. While I was hypnotized by the sights, a mariachi band began playing. I grabbed my boyfriend's hand, and we ran to the street and started dancing. Those around us joined in, and we literally danced the night away. I was wearing a vibrant dress with stripes of red, orange, lavender, teal, and blue. It flowed with the wind and caught every note the mariachi band played. As the sun disappeared from the horizon, the stars glistened in the sky like fireflies on a warm summer night.
"[Later,] we walked into [a restaurant] and saw that the ceiling was covered in bright shades of orange, pink, and blue. It was as if what I wore complemented the entire experience. I felt a sense of belonging that will forever be engraved in my memory."
SHOP HER SUMMER STORY
There's nothing like sharing a human experience with a thousand pulsing bodies — or, in other words, a summer music festival. Here, Shepherd, a 20-year-old entrepreneur from Alabama, takes up festival dressing at its fringe-iest, experiences sensory overload, and finds body positivity amongst the bikini- and hospital-gown-clad masses.
"It was the second day of the second year in a row I'd [gone to a music festival] with my brothers and sisters. The sun was setting as festivalgoers waited for one of the last, most epic [sets] to begin. I wore a white tank with a green, Mojave-chic vest that had fringe at the hip, with cutoff jean shorts and my go-to sneakers. Since I wasn't used to showing off my legs or arms, seeing how other people were dressed — and some of them were dressed super crazy — made me more comfortable. I was just like, Okay, they're here for a good time, so I'm going to have a good time, too, and not even give it a second thought. Since then, I've tried to go more out of my comfort zone [with how I dress]. Bringing that body positivity back home was really nice.
"When the band finally went on, I had no idea what to expect. Brightly colored beach balls filled the audience. People in costumes, a caterpillar with wings, a rainbow, and a sun danced around to the music. Confetti! Whips of lights hanging from the top of the backdrop changed from vibrant color to vibrant color. I'll never forget when the [frontman] got into a human-sized inflatable ball and bounced as the crowd carried him. What touched me most, though, was seeing the backdrop screen, in huge letters, read 'LOVE' — and the whole crowd screaming it in unison."
SHOP HER SUMMER STORY
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.