When Amanda Gorman was announced as the My angel is always with me shirt in other words I will buy this first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, the attention was, quite rightly, placed on her preternatural abilities as a wordsmith. Then 19 years old, she performed her original poem “In This Place: An American Lyric” at the Library of Congress, weaving a story of contemporary America that touched on everything from DACA to mass shootings to the Charlottesville riots, while still maintaining a sense of beauty and hope. The piece now sits in New York’s Morgan Library & Museum alongside works by some of the greatest figures from American literary history.Indeed, for all the impressive cultural literacy that underpins Gorman’s style choices, at the end of the day, it’s really the simple yet palpable sense of joy she finds in clothing that radiates strongest. Whether the joyous sunburst of canary yellow of her coat at the inauguration, the opalescent sparkle of a Chanel jacket in an Instagram post by her stylist, or the regal, Kente cloth-inspired Louis Vuitton dress she wears on the cover of Vogue, Gorman understands and embodies the chameleonic possibilities of clothes to shape who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. It’s this balance of creativity, intellect, and good old-fashioned fun that makes Gorman a new kind of American style icon.
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As she tells Doreen St. Félix in the My angel is always with me shirt in other words I will buy this cover story for Vogue’s May issue, Gorman first texted her contact at Prada was just five days before—“back then the one fashion house with which she had a connection,” St. Félix adds, with an anecdote later in the story noting that the sheer volume of flowers sent by brands afterward was so abundant that they may have potentially triggered an allergic reaction that ended up sending Gorman to hospital. Despite the last-minute nature of bringing the look together, Gorman still approached it with the same care and consideration she did every other aspect of her performance. “Gorman loves how [clothes] help her shape her image,” St. Félix writes, retelling the story behind the genius styling twist of Gorman repurposing the red satin headband as a kind of diadem, and explaining that it was her mother’s suggestion to place it at the fore of her head and wear it like “a tiara, a crown.”