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From Black and White to Color: The Fashion Evolution of Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae became a part of the mainstream music scene in 2008. Her signature look became wearing only black and white tuxedos with the occasional pop of color. When asked for her inspiration to dress in only black and white, she responded that it was an ode to her hard working parents. In an interview with BET, she reveals, “My mother was a p

roud janitor, my stepfather… worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man… I wear my uniform to honor them.” In 2009 she began to stray away from the traditional black and white tuxedo/ suit, when she arrived at Lollapalooza in an all white suit and black shades. 2011 was the year of satin for this sassy pop star. All in the same year she attended the Grammy’s, Beauty Gala and Met Gala with satin elements and a pop of a surprise. At the Grammy’s she wore satin pants with the surprise of a glittery black blazer, at the Beauty Gala she once again wore satin pants yet she dressed it up with ruffles and a top hat, she completely changed the game at the Met Gala where she sported a black all satin jumpsuit with a stunning jewel as the focal point. Fun fact, Janelle Monae could not afford to attend Clark Atlanta University, however she was able to sit in on music classes. Although she did not have the money, she had the drive and humility; remembering her humbling beginnings, she continued to pay homage to the working class uniform, while developing her own style by incorporating colors into her looks. In 2013 we can see her adding elements to her wardrobe such as fringe, plaid, red, leather, and chains, overall an edgy take on the traditional suit look. Her edginess also reflected in her music when she released her album The Electric Lady, which held rock undertones. In 2014, she began to refine her style into a classy more feminine approach, still sticking with the suit motif. This was her year of playing with prints and defining her signature accessory of a top hat. It is apparent that this soulful singer adores prints and texture, however after 2016 she reverted back to the traditional black and white color palette. Unlike in the past, though, she began to wear more dresses and suit sets with funky proportions and construction methods. Space buns and gorgeous gowns is the perfect way to sum up her 2017 red carpet wardrobe. With society being as accepting as it is today, it is understandable to go through the phase of self discovery. From 2018 until present, we see Janelle Monae grace the red carpets in nothing but color. She has ditched sticking to black and white, and began using spews of many different colors. No longer a tailored blazer and pants set, she strays into the world of brow raising silhouettes and eccentric top hats. While the reasoning for her wardrobe change remains unknown, it is possible to uncover her intentions through her music. All forms of art are connected directly to the artist. If their mindset begins to change or they have significant events occur in their life, we then begin to see the nature of their art change. This rings very true for Janelle Monae. Upon the release of her album Dirty Computer, in 2018, we notice not only does she add color to her black and white palette, she adds more feminine colors. The album is said to be the examination of female exploration, which becomes apparent in her song Pynk, where she hints at the power of self love and sexuality. The special quality she possesses is to find beauty through all things in time. Color, to her, no matter the intensity of the hue, can be found even in the darkest corners. It is possible that due to her examination and perspective of the world, this is her new palette of black and white.

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