JULIA, SHE / HER
This summer marked a huge shift in my life. I was truly in transition, a blurry watercolor painting I keep pulling into focus. The season is changing and I'm leaving the cafe. I'm feeling wild and bright and kind. This project spanned the beginning of this journey I'm on—a moment so fleeting it's already passed—and now, with some distance from the photoshoots, I feel so overwhelmingly grateful to have had it documented.
When I was first invited to participate in Dress. Code., I was visiting my sister in upstate New York. I was on vacation from the creative nonprofit I had been working for since I graduated art school in 2015. I had a lot of freedom in my dress code at work, keeping things pretty casual most days with a standard uniform of paint stained tee's and high waisted pants. My bleached hair and nose ring were not questioned, but accepted as a part of my laid-back, artistic vibe. In my first conversation with Cori, I felt empowered in my body and in my personal style. I saw this project as an opportunity to look inward, celebrate my confidence, and connect with another artist.
Shortly after I returned from vacation, circumstances changed at work and I had to make the difficult decision to leave my job. This job was everything to me: my identity, my community, my relationship to Cincinnati, my art practice and professional experience... my life, really. Without it, I felt confused, deflated, exposed, and directionless. While I knew I had made the right decision, I began to question the parts of myself and my appearance that I accepted in the context of that professional environment.
At the time of my photoshoots, I was working part time as a barista in a museum cafe. I think you can see a lot of my work-place anxiety and thoughts on professionalism reflected in my first look. It was essentially my barista uniform, and a blazer away from a "business woman" google search result: white collared button up tucked into a black knee-length pencil skirt and unremarkable black clogs. I straightened my frizzy curls in an effort to take up as little space as possible, to reveal as little of myself as possible, to be as unremarkable as my shoes, and to give no discernible impression of my identity.
At the cafe, I wore a mask and suppressed my needs for eight bucks an hour and a couple coins from the folks who couldn't make eye contact. I felt frustrated over assertions of my workers rights with management, annoyed by unwanted advances from men I couldn't walk away from, bewildered by robotic interactions, but, overall, very excited to be entering the next phase of my life, slowly accepting creative opportunities that felt aligned with where I'd rather be, somewhere beyond an oxford shirt. In this transition, I came home to myself, returning to my body after the numbing stress of constant work. I made new friends (bless you, Kyle), started walking more, set goals for my future, and expanded my world view.
Though not drastically different from the first look in palette or proportion, my second look gave much more insight into who I am. To me, the joy of dressing is the opportunity to express myself and my interests silently and from afar. It's both a utilitarian act and a call to like minded friends, collaborators, clients... In my second look, I wear a white tank top tucked into high waisted black pants, and sandals. It feels easy and comfortable. I have on a bolo tie I made from a ceramic face of a woman. She makes me feel powerful and feminine, and reminds me of my hazy childhood years in Arizona. My nail polish is yellow, matching the daisies in my curly hair, and I feel wild, bright, and kind. With this look, I hoped to inject a dreamy Sunday morning energy into an outfit I could wear in or out of the studio. Something that called attention to the parts of myself I value and that set a tone for the opportunities I want to receive.