An Ode to Stella’s Tender Fashion

In case you are a Black individual born earlier than 2003, for the previous 25 years, there’s a good likelihood that How Stella Received Her Groove Again has been utilized in some colloquial technique to signify a girl taking a trip, making a serious profession change, switching up her routine, or breaking with societal norms and (gasp!) courting a youthful man. In a roundabout way, Stella Payne (memorably performed by Angela Bassett within the 1998 movie, which celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary immediately) has been with Black millennials for the majority of our lives, however viewers typically don’t look deeper than the surface-level romance—which is rife with blaring purple flags, by the way in which—and overlook a girl prioritizing pleasure and achievement at 40, a susceptible and consummate 20-plus-year friendship, unanticipated grief, and, my private favourite, the garments. To be particular: luxurious appears to be like that exude sexuality and sign to the world that Stella is aware of who she is and what she desires whereas juggling very full plates at work and throughout the confines of her dwelling.

Stella is a San Francisco-based funding analyst and divorced mom of 1 who’s flourishing in just about each facet of her life: She has a wonderful home nestled within the hills of posh Marin County and is securing $10 million greenback accounts whereas getting ready for a merger at work. (Okay, her private life could also be barely missing, however Stella insists that she’s not apprehensive…she’s simply bored.) She treatments these blasé emotions by making the most of her son being out of city to ebook a spur-of-the-moment journey together with her bestie, Delilah Abraham (Whoopi Goldberg). Within the seven days and 6 nights that she spends away in Montego Bay, Jamaica, she showcases severe trend that can be gentle, uncomplicated, and evocative. Shrouded in silk peignoirs, satin quick units, turquoise velvet bikinis, and knit tops with curve-hugging denims, Stella exudes what she needs the world would give her—just a little softness, and possibly even just a little peace.

how stella got her groove back

Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg in How Stella Received Her Groove Again.

©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Assortment//Everett

These clothes selections weren’t created in a vacuum, although. Stella didn’t get up in the future with a wardrobe that emphasised tailoring and luxurious fabrications. It may be deduced that she was a New Yorker sooner or later as a result of she works as a inventory dealer; her BFF, the aforementioned Delilah, is a window dresser there; and their metropolis life is alluded to many occasions. Her garments all through the movie additionally talk a New York sensibility whereas concurrently bending to the relaxed setting of her life out west. There’s a knowingness to who she is with the textures and silhouettes. There additionally aren’t any hangups about “dressing for one’s age.” Stella wears what she desires, naked midriff and all, as a result of she’s assured in her sartorial selections and her physique, and, because the film continually reminds us with colourful matching Nike units, she’s a runner.

In reality, Bassett’s physique served as the first inspiration for Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter (Malcolm X, Black Panther, Dolemite Is My Identify), however not within the standard approach of constructing Stella’s character “attractive.” “Tender, gentle, gentle” was Carter’s mantra when brainstorming costumes for Bassett (such because the fabulous customized pink demi bikini and coordinated maxi skirt), in response to the L.A. Occasions in a 1998 interview. On the heels of movies like 1993’s What’s Love Received to Do With It and 1997’s Contact, Carter needed to skew extra glamorous—“on a regular basis.”

There’s at all times a flash of persona in Stella’s wares, and it’s not for a person’s enjoyment.”

how stella got her groove back

Stella (Bassett) falls in love with Winston (Taye Diggs) within the movie.


That’s one of many nice costume narratives about this specific movie: Stella doesn’t fall into the trope that love modified her sense of fashion, however relatively, the viewers will get a glimpse of the expansiveness of her wardrobe as her life continues to develop from the primary to the final scene. Her character is rarely stodgy, inflexible, or prudish—really fairly the other—however her seemingly unending tasks are the genesis of her view that pleasure is frivolous and imprudent. We see this all through her time within the workplace. In her day-to-day life, Stella grasps for pleasure the place she will in camel-colored Valentino skirt fits adorned with female touches like a tie on the waste in lieu of a easy double-breasted blazer. Susan Lazar turtleneck clothes are layered with Moschino blazers, and crisp grey fits paired with silver equipment are worn to consolation a good friend in want. There’s at all times a flash of persona in Stella’s wares, and it’s not for a person’s enjoyment.

Maybe the enduring romanticism of Stella’s costumes, and Carter’s work, is the dignity of not presenting her as a lovelorn girl within the midst of a midlife disaster, however as a substitute utilizing garments to inform a vital a part of her backstory: the boldness she revels in, and the way love solely expanded that revelry—it didn’t create it. It’s an apt metaphor for the Black girl’s means to create romance and opulence inside our wardrobes, even when the world can typically make these realities really feel restricted. We’ll at all times get our groove again (pun supposed).

Headshot of Yaminah Mayo

Yaminah Mayo is the founding father of Spicy Mayo—a weblog about stylishly adulting. She lives and works in New York.