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MADDY, SHE / HER

I’ve been scrutinized about my appearance and attitude most of my life. My parents are very health conscious and micromanaged my weight as a kid. As an adult, I work in a male-dominated field that judges a woman’s intelligence and work ethic on appearance. On top of that, I have let a highly judgmental boyfriend into my life that has an opinion on how a “real” woman should dress. Like, right now, I’m listening to one of his rants about how his ex used to look like Paul Bunyan compared to the rest of the group of girls they were going out with. I never hear my girlfriends say anything about how they want their men to change the way they dress or what a “real” man looks like.

DESCRIBE LOOK 1.

This is an outfit that received the boyfriend stamp of approval. He quite literally chose the outfit. My boyfriend likes my hair straight and in my face, which drives me nuts, so I knew it was perfect. No glasses, eyeshadow, and shoes I could barely walk in to complete the look. I’ve worn this once before for my boyfriend, which he swears I didn’t since he would have noticed. But when going out to a club, I guess it’s hard to compete for his attention, regardless of what I’m wearing when I’m lacking assets.

DESCRIBE LOOK 2.

I have jumped onboard the athleisure/travel performance attire bandwagon. I wanted to be comfortable—a theme seen throughout my wardrobe—slightly masculine but clearly a woman. I work in STEM and love the “professorial” look so plaid is a staple in my wardrobe. I love high waisted pants in any style since I boast a less curvy frame. But also, because bootcut is a nightmare. 

I was debating on what top to wear, and almost wore a sweater since that’s my norm, but at 90 degrees, I would have to be crazy. And the chucks were a no-brainer. Love me a pair of chucks! Like always, some sunscreen, a bit of concealer, and brushed out my caterpillar eyebrows. I decided to wear my hair down, which only happens about once a week, but even then, I pin back any hair that ends up in my face. My hair gets the same practicality treatment as the rest of me.

WHAT DOES DRESS. CODE. MEAN TO YOU?

Pressure for women to look a certain way, even by people who are meant to love who you are, is an everyday battle. Literally, I’m probably in a fight about it once a day. I want to see this project portray how women want to look and feel without someone else’s judgment or influence. I’m hoping that those seeing the stark contrast between each look, with the evidence directly in front of them, that they might realize just how much of a struggle it is for women to decide between themselves and society.

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU BEEN SCRUTINIZED?

I’ve always been more or less a tomboy, which often means being compared to a boy. I used to have a shaved head, so being mistaken for a boy was not uncommon. My height, my weight, my lack of assets, my attire, all of it has at some point been criticized. Not all of it has been negative, and I genuinely appreciate the compliments. But a compliment does not mean I should have to accept negativity as well. 

If someone doesn’t feel they can go up to a stranger and tell them their outfit looks awful, then those who are close to you shouldn’t feel like they have the right to put you down. There’s a difference between “honesty” and cruelty, and that is tact. If you want me to try something out of my comfort zone, that’s one thing. But insulting my everyday attire and telling me to be “normal” or a “woman” is not okay. Trying new things is a part of life, and whether you decide to incorporate them is a personal choice that no one else should have a say about.

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

I’ve always struggled with what I consider my personal style, but I get a certain satisfaction or empowerment by not changing what I wear based on others. I feel beautiful without makeup and without wearing a dress. I don’t have to do these things in order to be considered a “real” woman. I don’t want anyone thinking that I don’t admire those who do go the extra mile on their appearance. I most definitely do. I just don’t believe "effort” or time in one’s appearance should be a standard of beauty.

HOW IMPORTANT IS STYLING TO YOUR IDENTITY?

My style or what I feel comfortable wearing has changed many times and represents my current stage in life. It isn’t always apparent to me that the traditional definition of style is important, but that in and of itself is a style. I feel good about liking what I wear, but I also like knowing that it didn’t take much effort on my part.

WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS IN TERMS OF STYLING YOURSELF?

I’ve played sports since preschool, so most of my life I’ve worn t-shirts and gym pants. Part of it was practicality since a lot of my clothes were specifically for sports, but also because I just felt comfortable. 

Being older, and often in a more professional setting, I’ve had to change what I wear. Luckily, clothing brands have been expanding their athleisure/travel apparel that’s made to look like you’re walking into the boss’s office. I can find a pair of well-fitted pants that don’t hinder my movement, dry quickly, don’t wrinkle throughout the day, and remain comfortable. I do love a good pair of high waisted skinny jeans though! 

I used to wear more makeup in an attempt to be more feminine but grew quickly tired of spending an hour or more (depending on if I got the eyeliner winged tips right on the first try) getting ready every morning. Even worse, by the end of the day my waterproof mascara would end up as dark circles under my eyes. I try to keep things simple now (KISS principle)—a little sunscreen, concealer here and there, and a French braid for my hair.

WHAT WERE YOU INSPIRED BY?

I tried to find the most and least comfortable styles I could put together from my wardrobe, both physically and mentally. My personal style is always changing, but there are several people I look up to in terms of their wardrobe and attitude. My current style icon is USA soccer team player Megan Rapinoe. She’s able to find a balance between masculinity and femininity that I admire. I hope I can recreate my own version of her style at some point in my life. I struggle with what goes with what, but I’m slowly learning.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?

Looking at the pictures I could clearly tell what was “me” and what wasn’t. The camera captured my body language, which changed over the course of the shoot based on my comfort level. I learned just how much my outfit affected my posture. It proved that an outfit is just a shell and that style is an attitude. I had a hard time wearing the first look and maintaining a positive attitude that is meant to match the outfit. 

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