The Solange Outfit That Changed My Life

A sartorial seat at Solange’s table

By Doreen St. Félix, Gaby Wilson, Haley Mlotek, Hazel Cills, Hilary Hughes, Meredith Graves, and Rebecca Thomas

Today we’re at our desks, on our couches, riding the subway; maybe a few particularly lucky MTV News staffers are still in bed. Wherever we are, our headphones are in and we’re on an infinite loop of listening to Solange’s latest album, A Seat at the Table. We all agree that we’ll drop anything whenever we see a new side of Solange, but as we’re listening and thinking and loving this newest album, we took the opportunity to glance back at a few of our favorite Solange looks from years past.

At her wedding, Solange requested that everyone wear white, or acceptable shades of it, like milk or ivory. Still, she stood out like a flare. There were six outfits she wore to the weekend festivities. The matrimonial number was the whitest. Coyly traditional, there was no sweetheart neckline. She wore a demure, solid gown by Humberto Leon for Kenzo, with a cape that swept as much of the venue’s tiled floor as a veil would. But it wasn’t a veil at all and so she didn’t look like a bride: She looked like a superhero, a seraphic choir singer, or a science-fiction character from a lost Octavia Butler novel. Because she was totally covered in that one color, her head and neck appeared to float in the photos. It was such a delightful effect. Gawking at the pictures, I wanted to never bare my skin again, to give the world just my folded hands and a perched head. —Doreen St. Félix

Solange is responsible for the wedding dress to end all wedding dresses. Hers was a wedding dress so elegant, I’m convinced it’s the very reason everyone in Hollywood has been splitting up; no one can stay married in the face of such matrimonial perfection. So, you’re probably thinking, How is this list not just a series of people explaining their experiences with That Dress? And I get that. But uhhhhhhhhh, did you SEE that time she wore just her underwear and a bunch of dry cleaning bags for the ’gram????????????????????

This isn’t an Emperor’s New Clothes moment. I’m not saying we should all dress in plastic film because Solange did it. This is the Solange look I love the most because it most effectively represents what I love about all of Solange’s looks: It truly does not matter what she wears. It is the way she wears it that makes it beautiful and striking and influential. It’s the way she holds a reverence for design without taking Fashion (with a capital F) too seriously; the way she takes chances on unconventional silhouettes, strange fabrications, even dressing in all one color or one billion colors at once; and the way she can make literally anything look good. —Gaby Wilson

I put together the best outfits when I have a crush, but the outfits I put together when I’m brokenhearted are pretty good too. The best (i.e., dumbest) purchase of my life was a direct result of trying to distract myself from the worst breakup: a jumpsuit, bright ruby red and printed with pale pink and green flowers — something I would never, ever have considering wearing, but that red! Those small pink flowers! The terrible thoughts in my brain that I just needed to make quiet for one second! I had it tailored too, adding expense to injury, so that the legs had a slight taper and ended just above the hardest part of my fragile ankle bones, and I thought, Now I just need a pair of orange heels and a contrasting but complementary blazer, and I’ll finally be dressed like Solange in the “Losing You” video.

When I’m into someone and I’m thinking about what I’ll wear, I’m thinking about them seeing me. When I’m into someone and I’ve lost them and I’m thinking about what I’ll wear, I’m thinking the same, but for a different purpose — more of a question than it should be, because the outcome has already been decided, but it’s a question I would hold up to a three-way mirror beside that jumpsuit if I could: Tell me the truth, boy, am I losing you for good? When Solange sang that line we could tell the loss had already happened, but the asking, the looking. Just one more answer! Just one final glance! And maybe he’ll be like, “Oh fuck, am I losing her?”

My favorite kind of pop song is sad but dressed up in a happy outfit, and that’s what “Losing You” is: It’s heartbroken, anticipating what’s to come, and wounded by the man dumb enough to leave Solange. I think all of her outfits in the video, just like all of her activities, were distractions she designed to get some distance from those thoughts — it’s not just a bike ride, an impromptu swim. It’s not just her slight dancing in front of a man getting his suit tailored while she snaps her fingers, wrists and ankles just barely showing in her own perfectly tailored suit. She wore that suit to get someone’s attention, or maybe just to hold her own. I like to think it worked. —Haley Mlotek

I am not a “shorts person,” if a person can be such a thing. Why wear shorts when I can wear something more impractical, like a miniskirt? But Solange’s pink metallic shorts in the “Lovers in the Parking Lot” video, paired with a matching knit short-sleeved sweater, changed my mind.

First of all, the outfit is my absolute favorite shade of pink (a Pantone 225 C feel). Secondly, I’m a sucker for monochromatic looks, and the way she wears the shorts with the sweater tucked in make her look like she’s wearing some space-age gym uniform from The Jetsons (made club-ready with some pointy white stilettos).

The essence of Solange’s style, for me, is a playfulness that never verges into Too Much territory. She doesn’t wear costumes, she doesn’t even wear big trends. The cuts of her clothing are classic and minimalist with one thing thrown off: purple socks under heels where you don’t need them, no makeup but a flash of red shadow on her lids. In the dimly lit setting of the near-empty mall, Solange’s simple but unexpected metallic pink shorts make her into a bright burst of neon light. —Hazel Cills

Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Solange Knowles In Concert

In the months following the release of True, Solange packed rooms on the strength of those songs and drew sizable crowds to her corner of any given major festival — and she dressed for every occasion, but especially for those first gigs in New York. Her sets were aerobic, in that True didn’t just encourage you to dance, but throw yourself wholly into each move: She and her band would cover nearly every foot of the stage over the course of “Losing You” alone, thanks to the bounding reach of their side-stepping routine, and the outfits she wore were a series of impeccably tailored pant and skirt-suits of deep violets and popping patterns that let her do just that with ease.

At New York’s Webster Hall — where she covered Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love” and turned the entirety of the club into one grooving, sweating mass for “Locked in Closets” — she redefined business casual by working the hell out of the pristine angles of those jackets and delivering one heartbreaker of a record. —Hilary Hughes

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

At the 2014 Met Gala, we learned exactly what goes down when there’s a billion dollars in an elevator. In 2015, Solange bet that billion and won big against the house and the institution. Her pleated Giles minidress radiated out in a broad circle from her solar plexus chakra — the spiritual seat of confidence and control over one’s life, which is maybe worth a mention. From some angles, she was rendered 2-D, or shielded almost entirely save for her hands and legs. Mostly it made her look like a fairy godmother who loves to grant wishes and who lives in a mother-of-pearl ashtray. It was a Brienne of Tarth kind of shield against the events of the previous year — and it burst forth, visibly and contextually, from her heart. —Meredith Graves

Noxzema, The Gap, Cheerios, J.Crew, Keds — if you grew up a first-generation American kid of Caribbean descent who treated commercials and catalogues like cultural exhibits, those brands were seductive symbols. I was always in search of the materials that would propel me into the league of girls with sun-kissed freckles, denim jackets, and ponytails that would lift on a breeze. I wanted to be “the girl next door,” but as far as my eye could see, they looked nothing like me. Maybe that’s why coming across an image of a cutoff-clad Solange years later moved me so much. The Seat at the Table singer’s natural hair frames her head like a halo in the 2012 photo for U.K. mag Rollacoaster. And the styling is simple: a pale green t-shirt tucked gently into denim shorts. White sunglasses and a beaming smile round out the look. She is, of course, the picture of the girl next door. And, finally, she looks like … me. —Rebecca Thomas

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