This Mother’s Day, we reached out to the Dia Community to learn the many ways the women who raise us can influence our style. We were so inspired by Dia&Co customer De’Shantel Odom-Brown’s story that we had to know more. Keep reading to learn how De’Shantel’s grandmother and aunt both helped her build the life and wardrobe she has today. *Edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Written by De’Shantel Odom-Brown
My name is De’Shantel, or “Dee,” as everyone calls me. I was born and raised on the west side of Philadelphia, PA. I was primarily raised by my grandparents because I was born to a young teen mother. Growing up, my grandmother and my aunt had a huge influence on my personal style. My grandparents are from the south, so they were very traditional. We went to church every Sunday—and that’s when the magic happened.
Getting ready for church was always my favorite because out came the ruffles, the lace stockings, the slips, the gloves, and the bows. My mom (grandmom) was a classic lady—she wore dresses and skirt suits, accessorized with large hats, jewelry, great shoes, and a bag to match. She always made sure she had a handkerchief in her purse, and I carried one too. After she was done with her makeup, she’d add a spritz of perfume and then she was ready. It seemed as though she carried herself differently once she was “dressed up.” She walked differently, she sat differently—it was always amazing to me. I wanted to be a classic lady, just like her and my Aunt Dee.
My Aunt Dee was my grandmother’s oldest daughter and she also named me. Because she lived in Maryland, I didn’t get to see her until the holidays. Honestly, she doesn’t even realize how much I looked up to her. She too had that little something extra that set her apart from all the other women in the room—when she would visit, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of accessories she had on. She was always color-coordinated and accessorized to a T. There was never a wrinkle in sight and every hair would be in place. She was perfection! My grandmom was a homemaker, but my aunt was a working woman. Many people in my neighborhood were on public assistance and there wasn’t much opportunity around other than becoming a statistic—she gave me something to aspire to. She gave me hope.
Having these influences as an inner-city youth allowed me to see that I didn’t have to adapt to my surroundings. I could set myself apart and fashion could lead the way. They let me know early on that I could wear whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted as long as I did it with poise, class, and femininity. Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of money for designer clothes and sneakers, so I had to work with what I had, and I’ve carried that through my life. I was taught that you can buy all the labels you want, but that you can’t buy style. Add being plus size into the equation—there weren’t a lot of choices for plus-size teens that were fashionable. So, I made it work.
Now, fast forward to the age of 37, and I am still in love with all the frilly and feminine details. I would describe my style as feminine with a splash of tomboy chic. I go for effortlessly simple pieces with show-stopping accessories. I can go from full-blown ball gown to sneakers and a baseball cap—and wear them all confidently. I have two armoires that house all my jewelry and accessories and a tower that holds my 25+ pairs of aviator sunglasses. To date, I have 20 brooches, including some vintage pieces, and my closet is overflowing with purses of all sizes and colors. As for shoes, well, I’m running out of room.
Now, as an adult, I know one thing for certain—when I walk into a room, I’m one of the best-dressed women there. Not because of the labels or brands, but because I walk into every room as if I own it. Just because you’re plus size doesn’t mean you have to hide in the corner for the rest of your life—take center stage and live out loud. In the same way that I didn’t let my upbringing decide what my future would hold, that’s how I view my personal style and how I carry myself. My size doesn’t define how I dress and what I can or can’t wear.
I am a multi-faceted woman. I have my degree in business and I have a corporate job, but I’m also a tattooed, colorful hair-wearing, football-loving, MMA-watching wife, mother, makeup artist, and personal stylist. I don’t fit in a box—there’s no box big enough for me. I don’t have to be one thing or act or dress one way. That presence is what I want my daughters to see and be, but better. That’s what’s so awesome about my grandmom and my aunt’s influence—I know that I too can be the best of both worlds.
Dia&Co Customer & Style Lover