KINSLEY, SHE / HER
My body and personal style are only mine, and that is so powerful. They give me a platform to have many voices, identities and connections—something we forget to acknowledge as humans I think? That we don’t have to be held captive by a single identity for our entire lives, and that it’s an important part of the human experience to explore waking up everyday and giving into your evolving self. We are complex, so why only put-forth one facet of ourselves forever? In using our bodies and expressions the way that WE want to, we’re able to see the creative processes of life aren’t so rare from person to person.
My roots inspired Look #1. Growing up in a small agricultural village that also served as a cultural dead-zone boxed me into a feminine, stuffy, morally blind identity. I wanted to emulate that femininity doesn’t only look like skirts and buttoned collars, and also that a bubbly personality doesn’t only equate to Barbie. Nor does it equate directly to manners, motherhood, a desire for marriage or money or a lack of intellectual understanding.
The thing I love most about what look #1 says is that I can wake up and emulate femininity at my discretion, and that I’m allowed to love a matronly look without feeling like I have to be matronly on the inside to wear it. Dually, a large part of my childhood was spent living across Appalachia both barefoot, in rags and in school uniforms. The middle-class Midwest, a large ‘traditional’ family (and also untraditional in a million ways) made me gravitate towards what they all thought a woman was supposed to look like in order to fit in and feel validated. Truthfully, I’ve woken up and felt like the woman who wears outfit #1. And I probably will again and again in different iterations, although it’s the opposite of the base of my personal style.
I was inspired by Church on Sunday’s, huge family Christmas’s, my mother (a woman who walks the line of feminine and masculine effortlessly) always dressed in white linen and dangling silver jewelry, laying in the grass or dirt by a tent catching sun. I was also inspired by 5AM mornings with my father who used to climb telephone poles in knee high lace up work boots and carhartt overalls covered in holes. And long-johns.
Look #2 is so much harder to identify because my chosen identities and personal style are evolving every second. I was inspired by the use of mixed colors, patterns and proportions. A personal general rule of my styling is that all colors can match, and that the purpose of patterns and colors don’t have to matter if the hero of your look is proportion. This look says that shapes are just as loud as colors. A buttoned up pointy collar on a silky striped shirt initially feels masculine and slick, it emulates professionalism, prudishness and order. I topped it with a screaming political graphic tee to counteract the silk shirt’s stuffiness, and to quite literally say something with my shirt choice. The combination of shirts was meant to portray that fashion means both everything and nothing at all, it is as meaningful as it is frivolous, it is both incredibly serious as it is silly. Fashion is a total political lens.
The shirt is loose over the jeans or front tucked because I feel best in ‘ill-fitting’ clothes—the same reason why I chose an almost-baggy, bright, long funky pant. Trousers are my favorite thing to wear and for no reason in-particular. Of course for function and range of motion but mostly for shape. A pair of rainbow denim makes me feel like I want to disco, I feel most like myself shrouded in blue sparkly light and dancing. There’s a pant for every identity you could ever dream of.
I chose orange platforms because they are incredibly feminine and also entirely masculine—to be four inches taller is a powerful perspective, to focus on the motions of your feet while walking, to be DRAMATIC. All of my favorite outfits include extremely dramatic elements. Most of all they’re fun as hell, people like to ask about them and I welcome every chance to talk to people about style. When asked about the 4 inch platforms in a bar, I get to joke about the nature of their name (Blackouts) and imply that it’s because you’ll fall so far to the ground if you trip. It always gets a good laugh. Wearing something absurd is my main method of making friends and connecting.
The bucket hat. I love bucket hats, I think in-part subconsciously because my mother was always wearing hats. A bucket hat is extremely childish, it’s also effortless and disheveled. Growing up I’ve really learned to admire the messy incompleteness of my personality, wearing a bucket conveys that I don’t really feel like taking anything seriously ever—especially fashion.
My tattoos are a permanent accessory of rebellion against the preppy girlishness of my blonde hair and pasted open-mouth smile. They say “fuck you” politely when I choose to wear frills. They also say that I’m permanently complex, that I’ve chosen to ink symbols and meanings on my body because as much as our bodies are sacred, nothing is forever. Permanent adornments are so care-free, ink on skin reminds me that my body is just a vehicle for my thoughts, dreams, emotions and desires. And I can dress my vehicle however I want to.
This project is so important to me! This project is so important for all participating parties including viewers and consumers.
Being a stylist means subconsciously analyzing the way that dress influences self and is influenced by selves. (others). Sometimes being professionally cuffed to your passions can be deafening (something that sounds rare but is increasingly popular as generations lean into creative fields of work) but in the case that we as humans fall habit to pleasure, play and pay all in one—especially in the realm of visuals—getting dressed can lose it’s magic and meaning in the in-between spaces.
Dressing is always, of course, an everyday occurrence but not every day is getting dressed going to make you feel whole. And certainly not when the lines of what is work, what is mundane and what can be emotionally rewarding are blurred.
In that regard, Dress. Code. shines new light on the intent behind getting dressed. It’s helped me re-imagine the origins of thought that encouraged expression and exploration through style. I can remember the adornments of my childhood—both good and bad—that subconsciously forced me to choose pieces to wear, to be able to speak my mind through visuals, and to conceive what my personal experiences look like as fabric and accessories. It’s an emotional link between people all over the world.
My body AND self-expression have been over-sexualized and closely paid attention to for arbitrary reasons i.e. other’s sexual desires, religions or values, political viewpoints and prejudices.
They’ve been used as a correlation to my emotional state without my permission. Others to get ahead in society, work, school and relationships have suggested their use as a ‘tool’. (Rather than to stand for and with other bodies for the goodness of humanity).
Both are constantly scrutinized for not always being consistent, or falling in line with other’s pre-disposed norms. I, like most other women and marginalized groups, (this of course existing on various levels, my level still being one of privilege and silver-platter esq inclusion) are told to shrink to fit into the boxes that others present us with.
Styling is as important to my identity and self-expression as my tongue is to my words. No joke.
I’ve spent many hours of many days trying to identify the process of styling an outfit that has intent to convey, just to find out that listening to your feelings will usually always result in something that makes you feel good.
On the other hand, if I truly break it down on a micro level, my outfits tend to ripple out from either a pant or jacket. I like the idea of expressing all my feelings at once. In an outfit this could translate to wearing a lot of pieces that don’t make sense individually like punk boots, bows, pleated pants and bucket hats, but that form a single entity together (a form of rebellion against those predisposed boxes). This is the process I used to style myself for Dress. Code.
The theme of the project inspired my looks immensely. I loved an opportunity to explore my ‘given’ identity versus the ones I choose for myself. And throughout this process being able to see the ways other participants identified their outward and inward selves!!! Seeing other people’s personal dress is literally the catalyst of learning to style yourself, learning to be inclusive and being comfortable being loud about the beauty of both individuality and community.
Our initial conversation inspired me so deeply. How we connected over our personal values of the origins of style even as complete strangers, and how that procured a mega valuable friendship and commonality between us! And all members of Dress. Code.
I learned that the things that brought me to styling aren’t necessarily what kept me here. That seeing powerful people express themselves through dress, by glitz, by color, by shape and proportion, was really just a mirror into my individual prowess. I was also reminded that I’m allowed to be myself, and that I feel the most potential in doing so. Especially in a world that beats a dead horse that is trend. Sometimes being myself means giving into trends, and that’s OK too.