AMINA, SHE / HER
For most of my life, I was taught and told to cover up. I've always been tall and lanky and told I look older than I am, which apparently came across like a welcome sign for stares and comments from older men. So I do understand why my mother forced me to wear layers of clothes (leggings or tights under a "too short" dress, a cardigan over a "too skimpy" top) because at an early age men began interacting with me in inappropriate ways.
It’s safe. Not bad, not great, definitely not my favorite but it’s what I’m in most days. There’s something about shorts on long legs that gives me comfort but gives others the idea that I’m trying to be sexy or alluring, when really I’m just a fan of being comfortable (aka not in skinny jeans).
This is the kind of outfit I would wear in high school to stay within the bounds of the dress code; these are the pants I wear to work since all of my shorts are “too short”. This is the shirt I wear when I want to feel like myself but not offend others with my skin. It’s how I’d look when I’m trying to blend in, it makes me feel like myself in a neutral sort of way. I feel that I always look like this and I never love it.
When I tried this look on all I thought was “I want to be seen in this and not feel shame”. I love the way I look and feel in this. I feel like myself in the best way, like a badass dressed in black, like someone who doesn’t have the time to be told to “cover up” and if they are, they don’t care.
I discovered a sort of confidence within myself dressed in clothes that fit me and not worrying about any expectations. It begins with a look in the mirror when I instinctively ask myself “is this too revealing? Is it too much?” and it grows when I tell myself “screw it, I look good.” Even when I love a look, sometimes I tend to edit them for the public eye, like adding a jacket or switching to a looser shirt or putting on a bra; I’m constantly thinking about the reactions of others.
I’ve struggled with feeling wrong in clothing, my limbs are always too long for the otherwise perfect shirt or my legs turning every pair of pants into highwaters and every skirt into something scandalous. Finding clothing that fit my body type and also make me feel good is such a difficult task that I began resenting shopping and clothes in general at a young age.
As I’ve grown into a young adult, moved away from home, and began my life as an independent person, clothing has been a big part of figuring out who I am. I still have my mom's voice programmed in the back of my head when I’m getting ready for a night out, a first date or a meal with friends, always commenting and questioning my choices until it’s nearly impossible to feel confident, appropriate or right in anything that I choose.
My mother is the best parent in the world, and I know that she has only been looking out for me with the best intentions of diverting the creepy male gaze, but as I get older and explore my style I realize what a lasting effect it has had on me and the way I view myself in items that I like.
One of the many eye opening experiences with being a part of this series happened right after the shoot for Look #2. My roommate picked me up from the shoot and we decided to go directly to the mall. If I’m being honest, I was nervous to go to the mall wearing this, because as good as I felt in it, in the back of my mind I was thinking about suburban moms being offended by my clothing choice and men with their gross stares following me around in it. But in reality, every store I went into I got compliments on my clothes, hair and style, and it made me feel comfortable in my own skin and my own style that I don’t think I experience enough.
I’ve experienced a lot of shame and embarrassment and uncertainty that for me can come with wearing certain clothes, but it's rare for me to feel so proud and confident because of the way I style myself. Honestly, the whole Dress. Code. process and the day of shooting look #2 and going out feeling like myself has made me believe that whatever way I wanna look and however I choose to present myself is okay.