Attention Instagram models and their twice catfished supporters: corsets are back in a big way.
I’ve seen enough Keira Knightley films to know that any ‘big dress’ requires a minimum of three appendages: good boning, a circus tent skirt, and a white woman to wear it well. The web series Black Girl in a Big Dress, however, which stars young, Black anglophile Adrienne (Aydrea Walden, or Lady Kate in her cosplay attire), entirely begs to differ.
Imagine the greatest hits from your Google search history physically realized as a cosplay obsession. For Adrienne, who harbors a fascination for Victorian era memorabilia, this is either the beginnings of a great web series or the essential premise of Stranger Things. What ensues is a brow–raising story about our contemporary reasonable obsessions that checks all the criteria for a no–holds–barred internet original.
Despite her fondness for the parasol (and plague), leading lady Adrienne lives in 2017, and the show goes to great lengths to exploit the necessary anachronism. In episode one, Adrienne’s phone rings during a coy meeting with Lord Fitzhugh, another cosplayer best described as what my mother would call ‘debonair.’ Viewers then watch Adrienne effectively circumvent this social faux pas only to struggle at fitting her titular big dress and bigger hat into the driving seat of her twenty–first century Sedan.
The self–imposed time difference is never clearer than in Adrienne’s love life. To adopt a 19th century style of dress and speech is one thing, but Adrienne also craves some semblance of Victorian courtship from the men she pursues, cosplayer or otherwise. Though these men usually fail her expectations miserably, in the era of the #MeToo campaign highlighting abuses against women in entertainment and beyond it feels good to watch her stand her ground, even in Edwardian, black satin boots.
As is so often the case of comedies, Black Girl in a Big Dress provides its own blend of social commentary that scathes about as much as we scoff. In addition to joining critical conversations about dating culture, the show centers dialogue on what is suitable, or rather what customarily belongs in the canon of black American interest, but she is not alone in pushing those timeworn boundaries.
Last week, when #BlackHogwarts briefly dominated Twitter screens, hundreds of thousands of black users engaged in recastings, retellings and restagings of their favorite Harry Potter moments and scenes with content essentially described as ‘unapologetically black.’ There were viewing bumps for web series like Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis which depicts a black, young adult Hermione at her wits end and scores of likes, follows, and digital support pushed in the direction of content creators like twin comedians, the Lucas Brothers, who have poised themselves to make those wizarding dreams come true. Black Girl in a Big Dress, which premiered late last year, also rode these coattails and helped reignite a discussion about the public conception of blackness in a collective American conscious.
The fact is, Aydrea’s portrayal adds something to the nuanced mosaic of black existence, and her addition to black people’s multifaceted reality represented on–screen comes on the hinges of the critical success of Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl and Fatimah Asghar’s Brown Girls notable acclaim. Now, will Adrienne ever find her Darcy? Probably, but here’s hoping by then she doesn’t need him.
Black Girl in a Big Dress is free to stream on YouTube.