Few years back I worked in a gift shop as a sales assistant during one summer. Everyone there had clothing provided by the firm to wear at work, 60’s style knee length dress with open armholes and colourful apple pattern. That apple dress was to become my worst enemy in terms of feeling good of myself but after all it was also the key.
Clothes and style is so personal that even small things can throw it off. You perhaps know the feeling from your own childhood. An accident including juice, milk or anything liquid. You messed your clothes and then you had to borrow something to wear from your cousin against your will: your aunt, mother or grandma insisted. There was always something wrong with the borrowed piece. Maybe the colour was wrong, the material was scratchy or it just smelled funny.
On the other hand every one of us have those favourite garments which are just us and make us feel so good, like home or like we could just take the whole world. In my mind that’s the only reason why one should look in the mirror. As Janina said in the post about starting to figure out the wardrobe, dressing up can be the make it or break it moment of the day.
How bad can it be?
With the red apple dress I felt like I was wearing my older cousin’s hand me downs. I thought the feeling of unease was because the dress was a size too big for me and didn’t fit well. At first I tried to think of it as a possibility to play a little. I did my hair and put on ’60’s style jewellery and tried to channel my inner Patti Boyd.
Putting on an act worked for few days. As I’m not very keen to do make-up and hair every day the practice died quickly. Eventually it was just me, my hair drawn to a low ponytail, black leggings and the apple dress. It was merciful when the weather was cold and I could put on a long sleeved cardigan in a neutral colour.
The more weeks went by, the more better it felt to take the dress off in the end of the day. Every weekend was like a small holiday when I got to wear my own clothes again. It was like I could take the first normal breath after a week of trying to breath underwater. I hadn’t realised clothes could do that, how much power one piece of clothing could have.
In a job where you have to put on a happy face on day to day basis, work with people you don’t know and try to be confessing the feeling you have about your own appearance is crucial. For some people an uniform can be helpful, it sets the mood for working. In selling you have to put your best personality assets in work. How can that work out if you are feeling humiliated as a person?
There’s power in clothing – harness it
Ellen page has said “There are moments when you are, um, encouraged to dress a certain way. But I can’t. It just erodes my soul.”
It took me year worth or time before I figured out why the apple dress felt bad. It didn’t match my gender. Now I recognize the feeling of unease I had with me for a long time. It was my cousin’s hand me down dress but on top of that, I felt like fifteen year old boy. It just didn’t sit right in any way. The masculine part of me couldn’t make the dress work.
I cut my hair in the beginning of 2015 and the feeling was unbelievable. I felt almost drunk when I watched myself from the mirror. I was me! It didn’t feel weird or alien, it was like coming home, like this is what I have always looked like. My sister said the new hair looked so like me and Janina said the change in me was huge: my posture changed, I looked instantly happier, more whole.
All of the sudden my clothes started to feel better too. Jeans looked like I wanted and I tossed away everything that didn’t feel good. Because this was me. I’m not going to wear anything I don’t feel good in any more, not if I can help it. I don’t think I would be able to wear any kind of apple dresses any more, sales assistant wage is not worth of the feeling. Now I would have courage to ask what would be the option for men.
Pushing the gender boundaries
Gender is a curious thing, not simple or easily labelled. Personally I feel it’s something much more organic and gradient than those few terms we use in the science. Social gender identities are still very narrow and even slight differences are often viewed as deviations from the ever changing norm.
Norms are mostly made up scenarios how world should go around. If I dress more like a guy than a gal it’s not really going to hurt anyone. It has been such a joy to see how discussion of genders and identities has spread during last few years. The topic is very important to me as a person but also as a professional.
I wrote my thesis about gender diversity among clothing industry customers. In my opinion the gender-queer group is growing. The market is already there but the big players in the clothing industry are slow to react to the fact. It’s ridiculous that we are given different clothes depending of the statement one doctor gave at the maternity clinic. Of course we need clothes in different sizes and forms, but I don’t want a rose coloured garment because it’s the norm. I want to choose it by myself.
Your style is for yourself
When we write about clothes in this blog, we want to do so very open minded and without specific gendered posts or topics. We are very passionate about feeling good with oneself with any gender identity, any form of body and mind. Clothes and outfits are so powerful, it’s good to understand how they can work best for you. I have been incredibly lucky when I have a spouse who understands and shares my views about gender queerness.
This personal story was a game opener, so that you might see where I look things from. We will zoom more into non-gendered or androgynous clothing and wardrobes in the future. We still want to get our teeth into androgynous capsule wardrobe and what are good pieces of clothing for gender fluid personalities. Maybe compare differences between masculine and feminine clothes like dress shirts and jeans.
As a last note I still want to say, that trust your own feeling when it comes to clothes. If it feels nice to wear, you feel confident and like yourself, that’s it. We don’t owe anything to anyone when it comes to personal style and fashion. Be true to yourself and be not afraid if you are not yet sure about it. It’ll come in a form or another, maybe as the colourful printed apple dress.
What has been your apple dress?