I always say that the combination of music and videography is perhaps my favorite way of consuming art. When I listen to music, I love to imagine music videos playing out in my mind. That’s why nothing gets me going more than a good visual album.

And a visual album that I feel is slept on is Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture] by Janelle Monae. As The New York Times states, the album Dirty Computer is “a homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities. The songs can be grouped into three loose categories: Reckoning, Celebration and Reclamation.” The visual album takes those themes and elevates them to the next level, with a smattering of vibrant imagery, displays of emotion, and a powerful celebration of diverse identities.

One major way that these themes come through in the visual album is through the fashion styling–the album contains a wide array of fashion styles, all thoughtfully curated to capture the symbolism and imagery contained in each song. Beyond that, the fashion is just rad as hell. The first time I watched the visual album, I found myself in awe of all the creative, fun, colorful fashion choices that were made. I told myself, “I need to do my makeup like that” or “I need that (insert clothing item here).”

The intersection of the celebration of everything that makes each one of us unique with the thoughtful and bold fashion choices led me to think about how what we wear is our way of experimenting and broadcasting our identity and individuality to the world. I’ve been really trying to dive into unique and more “out-there” clothing myself–but there’s one problem with that. Many of the hip/funky/trendy clothing out there tends to come from fast fashion. 

What exactly is fast fashion?

According to The Good Trade,

“Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. Garment production utilizes trend replication and low-quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public. These cheaply made, trendy pieces have resulted in an industry-wide movement towards overwhelming amounts of consumption. Unfortunately, this results in harmful impacts on the environment, garment workers, and, ultimately, consumers’ wallets.”

It may be tempting to run out to a store like Forever21, or even those online shops with prices that seem too good to be true, like Shein or Fashion Nova or H&M, to try and replicate these funky outfits. But is there a way to do so more responsibly, instead of buying into the fast fashion cycle?

There has definitely been a rise in sustainably made clothing in the past few years, as well as rising consumer interest in purchasing said clothing. I have been trying to stop buying fast fashion, opting instead to buy secondhand or splurge on a sustainably made piece of clothing once in a while. The thing is that sustainably made clothing tends to be more expensive, in order to ensure actual living wages for workers and more sustainable practices across the board. In addition, I’ve noticed that many sustainable brands have clothing that is quite bland, or very much “basics” – plain colored tees, earth-toned sweaters, black activewear, etc. 

With some digging, however, you can find some magic. I’m here today to show you how you can recreate some of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer looks in a more responsible way. The items featured are either sustainably made, handmade, or secondhand. And they are so fun and unique that you will want to keep wearing them, instead of buying them cheaply for one occasion and then letting them collect dust in the back of your closet.

Hopefully, you are inspired by this piece–to watch Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture], to treat yourself to one or two items listed below, and to continue on your journey of shopping more sustainably while keeping it fun and funky!

Song: “Crazy, Classic, Life”

Look #1

This song is a declaration of Monaé’s desire to live in a world free of harsh judgments, where people can be who they truly are. The song conveys that truly being yourself is a rebellious act and the fashion choices reflect that.

Frostings Jewelry
Studded Black Collar Choker


Low Country Fair Trade
Black Fishnet Rhinestone Fingerless Gloves

Song: “Pynk”

Look #2

In the album notes, Pynk is described as “a brash celebration of creation. self-love. sexuality. and pussy power!” Many of the lyrics contain euphemisms for the vagina, making this song an unapologetic ode to the female body. The fashion choices in this song mirror the provocative yet celebratory nature of the song–they are bold, crazy, and fun, like the iconic labia pants, and often nod to feminist issues, like the panties Monaé wears that say “sex cells.”

Little Lady Shay Btq

Pom Pom Girls Hair Clip

Look #3

Marine Layer
Charley Crop Rugby Polo

Los Angeles Apparel
Thigh High Sock

A Little Handmade Story
Can’t Touch This Panties

Song: “Make Me Feel”

Look #4

This song is a playful nod to the array of preferences Monaé has, especially in regards to her sexuality. The music video shows Monaé flirting and dancing with both a man and a woman, going back and forth between the two, conveying her attraction to both genders. In a heteronormative society, this song stands out as a nod to how fun owning your desires can really be. The colorful outfits that appear in the video elevate and celebrate the presence of a true spectrum of sexual preferences and personal expression.

We Are Hah
Straight Up Bodysuit

Los Angeles Apparel
40 Denier Classic Opaque Tights

Look #5

Punk Style Head Chains

BlingTrim Boutique
Sparkling Rhinestone Bra

Final Thoughts

Dirty Computer is inherently political–it celebrates identities traditionally considered “outside the norm,” and contains a wide swath of commentary on social issues. In addition, the album centers around self-expression. 

The clothes that we choose to wear are a direct form of how we express and experiment with our own identity–and the way that we choose to shop and consume is also inherently political, as we vote with our wallets for what values and ethics we want to support in our purchases. For those reasons, I wanted to highlight the ways in which our shopping choices can keep the ethos of Dirty Computer alive. I hope you feel inspired to seek out items of clothing that are bold and experimental and speak to you, while also exploring ways to shop and consume that are more socially responsible.