VICTORIA, SHE / HER, THEY / THEM
Since around five, I remember my mom telling me my stomach stuck out a little and I looked like a little pregnant woman. She taught me how to “suck it in.” I was a very thin child already, and growing up family members and various other people I came into contact with would tell me I looked like I had an eating disorder and would never trust me when I said I didn’t. We once had a neighbor tell my grandmother I “looked like a holocaust victim.” My mother has a lot of issues with her body, so I learned to hate those aspects of my body as well. I got called chicken legs, I wasn’t “built how girls should be built,” and my Asian heritage was both equally mocked and sexualized by my male classmates.
I feel like my looks seemed flipped to other people, but Look 1 is how I feel I have to dress and represent myself, which is “different” than societal norms. This is an outfit I love and feel powerful and confident in. I feel like a badass, but I don’t feel like me, per-say. I feel like I’m playing dress up or wearing a costume, trying to emulate someone else. This kind of look doesn’t feel rebellious like it use to, it feels expected of me.
This look feels like me. It doesn’t feel like I’m trying to be anything or trying to say something with my clothing. This look makes me feel naturally beautiful in my own skin. I feel grounded. I feel like I can speak for myself instead of letting my clothing do the talking. I’m just wearing one of my favorite outfits, and unlike the last look it’s comfortable.
This project was incredibly personal for me. For several months before I was asked to be a part of Dress. Code. I had been questioning why I dress the way that I do. Is it because it’s what makes me happy? Or am I just dressing up for the people around me? This project gave me the space to really experiment with those questions and get closer to the real me.
From a very young age I learned to express myself through style. It was a way for me to let my appearance speak for me. It was also a way for me to rebel against the social pressures I was feeling. It has always felt like putting on armor or that I was cosplaying a different aspect of myself.
It used to be the most important thing in the world to me. As I’ve gotten older, I keep going through phases where I’m disgusted by it all. Disgusted that how I present myself is scrutinized by the people who see me everyday, even strangers. In our society it is still so important how women and femme folks look and I’ve been wanting to just say screw it and rebel even more.
Lately, I’ve been wanting to just roll out of bed and live my life without caring about my exterior, because if I am not going to be seen or judged by someone else I probably wouldn’t put any effort into my appearance. But then I go through phases where I find putting together outfits joyful and exciting, like I’m creating art or something. It varies day by day. It also varies on what my gender expression feels like that day.
I recently came out as non-binary and at first I thought that meant I had to represent more masculine. I felt that I had to “look non-binary or queer.” Through a lot of trial and error I realized that’s wrong. No gender needs to conform to a specific "look", and just because I lean more towards traditionally feminine styles doesn’t make me any less non-binary.
I usually have one piece that I’m really excited about and then build a look off of that. As far as what aesthetic I’m going for, it all depends on my mood that day.
Wow, a lot. I’m always inspired by androgyny. As cliché as it sounds, David Bowie was one of my first true style icons, as well as Morticia Adams, Lilly Munster, and Lydia Deets. I also take a lot of inspiration from Japanese style and anime. I’m very inspired by Lord of the Rings and other science fiction and fantasy stories. I feel most myself when I’m out in nature drawing a lot of inspiration from trees, mushrooms, moss, and lichen. I was exposed to drag queens when I was a kid and to me they are the true princesses. I’ve always looked up to drag queens, feeling so inspired whenever I go to a drag show or see pictures online.
As much as I believe I act on my own accord, I still really do think about how I’m viewed by others. For so long I dressed differently than most people, and part of the reason was it felt rebellious. But throughout this project I learned that dressing “weird” became the new norm for me and what was expected of me. For awhile now it’s kind of flipped and now dressing “normal” feels rebellious. I’ve also learned that I try and stick to subcultures or aesthetics too rigidly. If I like something I should just wear it and stop stressing over not having a consistent style.