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KALEY, SHE / HER

The experience that hurts the most is when this critique comes from other women. I expect objectification from men, not that they shouldn’t be held accountable, but it stings so much worse coming from other women. Just the other day I had a fellow female student in my brand new cohort ask me what I was going to “do about my hair” since they talked about professional dress and presentation during orientation. Until someone can fucking quantifiably and scientifically fucking prove to me in a fucking published research journal that the way I look somehow inhibits my performance or the performance of those around me I will continue to do whatever the fuck I want until I die.

DESCRIBE LOOK 1.

I made this shirt a long time ago because it so perfectly sums up my elementary experience in small town Ohio. Not being skinny or blonde enough to be a cheerleader and being accused of worshipping the devil all in a matter of years. I look back on those experiences and feel thankful. It’s taken a long time to feel that way but without experiencing that type of alienation early on I could have very well gone down the path of normalcy. This first round is a dramatic portrayal of my life had I not been alienated from normalcy early on.

DESCRIBE LOOK 2.

I decided to “wear” my iconic polka dot dress that is shredded to pieces and practically unwearable. It’s amazing that an item of clothing can function as a time machine. I wore that goddamn dress almost every day through college like it was a fucking safety blanket. I bet a psychoanalyst could draw some bizarre conclusion that my attachment and repetition with clothing stems from my attachment issues with my parents. These are my cosmic safety blankets protecting me from the true terror of existence.

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU BEEN SCRUTINIZED?

This question ultimately would take years of therapy to truly answer in any robust amount of depth. 

I grew up witnessing my mother be so entirely uncomfortable in her own body and that anxiety was eventually inherited by me. I compulsively wear things four sizes bigger than what my size truly is. I have such a potent childhood memory being on the school bus and a boy said I looked pregnant. I couldn’t have been more than 10 at the time. It was a truly paralyzing and traumatic moment. 

As much as I’d like too I don’t think I’ll ever overcome the anxiety I hold around my body and maybe if that’s my only burden in life that’s not so bad. Because of living in a bigger body my physical appearance is constantly assassinated. It’s as if being fat puts a target on your back to be scrutinized. I’m never perceived as professional. And the assessment of my intelligence so frequently stops at what I’m wearing.

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU FELT EMPOWERED BY YOUR BODY + STYLE?

I don’t think I’ve ever viewed the way I present myself as empowering. It’s more compulsive to be honest. I feel trapped by it sometimes. I wear the same ten things in rotation until they are rotting off of my body. To live in my clothing, to allow my clothing to live out its intended purpose until the very end of its use is my love letter to fashion. I know I have had an obsession with being unique throughout my whole life. It’s infuriating and meaningless yet here we are, with me wearing my hair the exact same way over ten years later.

HOW IMPORTANT IS STYLING TO YOUR IDENTITY?

The way I physically present myself has become an unintended consequence of my identity. I never intended to essentially become a cartoon character of myself but somehow my compulsiveness and penchant for repetition got in the way. Again, I don’t know how to aggressively describe how unintentional my physical appearance is for me. It’s a habit, a routine, something I am not comfortable changing. It’s interesting to reflect on the chaos of my life and how I am constantly invoking change in my situation yet I’ll still be wearing the same fucking outfit over and over again through it all.

WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS IN TERMS OF STYLING YOURSELF?

I had no idea what to do for the first look. I don’t know what people expect from me in terms of my physical appearance. Like, can you imagine me looking normal? I don’t know what normal even is? I don’t know what people expect me to look like truly. Like, wear dress slacks that flare out and get bad highlights? The middle American Dream?

WHAT WERE YOU INSPIRED BY?

My childhood trauma of not being assessed as feminine enough for the cheerleading team in 5th grade lol.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?

I’ve come to love looking at pictures of myself as I get older. I’ve learned how to hold my face in ways that I find attractive or beautiful and that is always fun to experiment with when I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I literally look like a fish. It’s nice knowing I can take a good photo when I need to.