GEORGE, SHE / HER
Through this process of reflecting I realized why I've always struggled with answering “what is your style and what do you want your style to say about you?” I've never viewed my style as something to use as a communication device. I've always felt that style is something very personal to me, and I dress in a way that makes me feel good about myself and happy.
My style now is the most “me” it’s ever been. It’s very eclectic, it’s all over the place acting as a collection versus a wardrobe. The clothing I collect tends to be memories from places I’ve visited. Not only am I wearing something because I love it, but because it reminds me of a cherished memory and being happy. My style now has come full circle to what I liked to wear as a kid, as children we are more uninhibited and expressive. We learn to hide parts of ourselves as we age; that’s not something most people are born with.
I went between the two things that have been “suggested” I wear 1) from school and work dress codes to 2) what’s been advertised and said by the media and peers. 1) Be modest and not overly sexual. 2) Make sure you accentuate your curves, but make your waist look smaller and legs slimmer. I chose the media and peers influence because it has shaped my thinking about myself and my style more.
Look #1 is what I wore when I was single, going out and trying to meet guys. I dressed to please others, to be noticed—straightened hair (even though I love my hair wavy), push up bra (even though it’s physically and mentally uncomfortable for me), no heels (I’m already too tall for a lot of men), and no panty lines (no one wants to know you are wearing comfortable underwear).
Styling myself for Look #1 not only wasn’t me, but it made me uncomfortable to even wear traveling to the studio for this shoot. There is always a higher possibility of being yelled at on the street when my cleavage is visible. It’s unwarranted, unwanted, uncomfortable and upsets me. I wanted to wear a sweater over my clothes even though it’s August! I do wonder how much my increasing desire to not be harassed on the street has contributed to my change in style?
I feel authentically me when I wear something that holds sentimental value. I like to mix and match metals wearing my grandpa’s and mother’s wedding rings as necklaces. I knew I needed pockets and something comfortable because I am a physically active person in the sense that I can’t sit still. I like sitting cross legged, lying on the floor, sitting to sew, kneeling to cut out a pattern. I pictured an outfit that I would wear while sewing because it’s one of my favorite things to do. I feel like myself when I’m making something with my hands.
I love being a woman and being able to exist in the spaces and communities that women do, I’m honored to be involved in something that I hope inspires other women to have more confidence and put less stock in tailoring themselves to what others think.
I also want men to see this series, because most heterosexual men will look at these two portraits and think I look “ hot” in the first one, and less so in the second portrait, even though I'm noticably more relaxed, at ease, happy, maybe even confident and approachable in the second one where I’m expressing myself truly. My authentic self may not be the ideal for most men but shouldn’t they appreciate that I’m happy? This respect shouldn’t just be shown to me but everyone involved, all women and nonbinary folks. I think it’s important for everyone in our society to value confidence and self-respect just as much or more than standard beauty—though it’s great to be and feel beautiful as well!
I’ve also taken notice the past few years of how many of my friends of all genders comment, mostly on women’s photos, “you look so pretty!” “you’re gorgeous here!”. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to say things like, “you look so HAPPY here!” “you look like you’re having the time of your life!” “you two look so in love!” People are constantly projecting a persona of happiness and perfection that doesn’t always mirror themselves on social media. It’s important to make yourself happy and not just showcase what you think the world wants to see, especially with fashion. Clothing trends change so fast but your happiness should be a constant priority!
I used to shave my pubic area until I realized the stubble growing back was itchy and would only stay smooth for a day. I only shaved when I thought I was going to have sex (with men). I even began waxing, but after realizing how expensive that shit is I questioned why I even did it? I can’t believe I ever spent $70 just so a man would be more excited about my vagina? No one ever asked me to do these things, I just learned from a young age looking through magazines, ads and movies that straight men prefer hairless women (except on the head, omg the longer the better then…).
I used to read all kinds of fashion magazines and I always remember reading about the “style I should have” as an hourglass figure: peplum tops because your waist should look smaller, bell bottoms because your legs are chunky, never wear an empire waist because you’re too curvy, always accentuate your boobs because that’s what you’ve got to show off! These were the things I was supposed to wear to make my body “look the best”.
It's funny to compare what we are told by the media and these fashion magazines versus what we grow up learning in terms of dress codes in school. Growing up we are forced to cover everything as to not be a distraction. So should I listen to authority? Or to the people who are trying to help me get a boyfriend/get laid? Because neither sound appealing.
This makes me think of wearing my own designs specifically. I love the confidence I feel when I wear something I've made, even if no one else knows I made it. I always feel more confident when I am comfortable. That usually comes with wearing something well-worn, stretchy, not physically constricting (looking at you strapless bra) and not too tight.
Look #2 I imagined going on vacation only taking photos for myself, not to share online. If I’m not wanting others to see what I look like, what would I actually wear? I thought of clothes that made me feel excited to start my day, something comfortable because that is a huge factor in what I wear, and something with pockets. Look #1 I reflected on how I dressed before I really knew myself. That’s when I wore what I thought people would like or what would make them like me.