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What I’m Wearing: The Fashion-Focused Local Behind “Traveling Cocoa Girls”

Denise Osei releases guides dedicated to changing the perception of how black women travel.

Photos courtesy of Denise Osei.

Denise Osei, a 26-year-old Ghanaian American, was born and raised in Takoma Park. A communications specialist for Destination DC, she’s also a lifestyle and travel blogger and one of the minds behind Traveling Cocoa Girls—a platform she co-founded with her sister and her best friend that seeks to “change the perception of how black women travel.”

Currently living in Upper Marlboro, Osei says that when she’s not at her desk, she spends her time exploring the District and helping travel journalists experience the “real DC;” or, she’s planning the next trip for her travel guides—with style in mind, of course.

Growing up, Osei says she would frequently rummage through her mother’s closet and incorporate pieces from Ghana into her wardrobe. “My style is a mix of bold glam and minimalism with a hint of trendy and vintage feels,” she says. “I love monochrome, color blocking, and of course, denim. Bold colors and prints that make my skin tone and curves pop are my jam.”

Have a unique sense of style you’d like to share with other Washingtonians? Tag a picture of your favorite outfit on Instagram with #WhatImWearingDC, or email us with “What I’m Wearing” in the subject line. You might be featured next! Read past entries.

What I’m wearing in this picture

Blazer, Zara; jeans, Fashion Nova; shoes, Christian Louboutin

Fashion icon

Rihanna. “A conversation about fashion without mentioning her name can’t exist,” says Osei. “Most recently, she has taken the fashion industry by storm with her Fenty and Savage Fenty lines. I appreciate how her line is dedicated to being diverse and inclusive by creating fashion for people of all sizes and shapes.”

Interview outfit

“Structured blazers in a vibrant color, printed mid-length dresses, and high-waisted pants and skirts are my go-to for interviews or big meetings. If all eyes are going to be on me, I want to give folks a stylish outfit to look at.”

Favorite item of clothing

“High-waisted denim jeans will always be my favorite. From fitted flare to mom jeans—I have a pair in almost every wash. They go with everything. When I’m having a hard time putting together an outfit, they always come to the rescue.”

Favorite place to shop around town

“My mother owns her own boutique, Per-fit African, filled with African clothing and fabric right outside the city in Beltsville. I’m able to get first dibs on fabric for custom made outfits. Also, I’m an avid online shopper, but when I decide to hit the town for shopping, Georgetown and Metro Center never fail because I can pop into Zara, Nordstrom Rack, or H&M during sale season for the best bargains.”

Favorite fashion trend

“Although West African print fabric, also known as Ankara, has always been in style in my world, I enjoy seeing mainstream celebrities celebrate West African culture by wearing colorful, funky Ankara fabric and designs by African designers. My favorite example is Tracee Ellis Ross’ blue and orange Lavie gown by Claude Kameni that she wore while hosting the 2018 American Music Awards.”

Best fashion bargain you’ve found in DC

“An MCM crossbody bag I found in a consignment shop a few years ago for less than $20. The original price was about $300.”

Style advice

“It’s not about what you wear, but how you wear it. Wear it with confidence, grace, and joy. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re used to wearing tons of black, challenge yourself by buying a piece of clothing in a vivacious color you’ve never worn before. Color looks good on everyone.”

Three words to describe DC’s style

Powerful, monumental, flavorful.

White top, Grassfields; white denim culottes, Levi’s; white mules, Bershka; glasses, Amazon.
Top, Fashion Nova; skirt, Nasty Gal; bag, thrifted; shoes, Forever 21; earrings, H&M; Photo by Taylor Baldwin (@mama.photog)
Pants, Hanifa; satin blouse, Pretty Little Thing; orange heels, ASOS. Photo by Eugene Maddy (@getboxed_)

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Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, TheAtlantic.com, and DCist.com, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.