Walker tells the story about a southern, African-American family in the early 1970s. At this time period, African-American families were still struggling against inequality and against history - against the economic and social discrimination that have plagued them since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
In this family, though, Dee has escaped the circle of "survival" that the family has stuck to. She is not just living in the family home and continuing the family position. She has moved beyond. She has received an education and is planning to live and work outside of the community the family has been stuck in. That is how she has made it.
Her bright and fashionable clothing demonstrate that she has moved beyond her family, represented by Maggie and Mrs. Johnson. Her announcement that "Dee" is dead because she has taken a new and more African name also shows that she has moved on. She has taken control of her personal life and is challenging history.
Unfortunately, Dee is also forgetting history and in her focus on "making it" in the world she has forgotten the beauty of her own ancestors - which is what makes Mrs. Johnson refuse to pass over family quilt.