I’ve never been into fashion or makeup. In fact, for a long period of my life, I was scornful of feminine or “girly” things. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with what society expects from women, wasn’t comfortable with the way we are sexualized or diminished by a myriad of little things. Pants not having real pockets. Clothing sizes that don’t make sense. Fashions that do a 180 every three months. Uncomfortable shoes that slow me down. Being cold all the time. Haircuts that require a lot of fluffing and gel, which don’t work for my thick, super-straight hair. And bigger things, like being asked “if I can really carry all that” or being told to “smile more.”
I’m still not excited about any of that. But after a few years of furtively buying men’s clothing, cutting my hair very (very) short, and avoiding the mall, I found that I still hadn’t found a solution. The pants had pockets now, but they still didn’t fit right. The shoes were comfortable but ugly. Plus I kept being mistaken for a teenage boy, even though I was in my mid-twenties. Embarrassing.
If my gender identity was more masculine, this might have all been a good thing. I could have worked harder to craft a more stylish, manly appearance. But that’s not who I am. I don’t have a problem having a female body. In fact, I’m betting I prefer it over being a man, because facial hair is so not my bag. So instead I looked to the women I admired, whose haircuts or clothing spoke to me. I happened to be in the Chicago area at the time, where there were a lot more people (and therefore fashions) than my hometown. I also looked more aggressively for women’s clothing that felt comfortable and looked good on me.
What I’ve landed on, the look that makes me happy right now, reflects my gender-fluid identity really well. I found a hairdresser who has no problem doing asymmetrical cuts – he was cutting hair in the ’80s, so nothing scares him now – and I go to him religiously. I get to have the no-fuss of a short cut without obliterating my femininity in the process, and after years of not finding the right “look,” that is worth driving across town. I wear a lot of corduroy, I’m excited chokers are back in style, and most of all, I trust myself to know what I look good in, even if it is neither the most popular nor the most comfortable option.
I’m not saying I’ve solved all my fashion problems forever. There are still days I look in the mirror and think, “Who is this? I don’t like this face.” Or moments where I realize I don’t have the exact pants or shoes or whatever that would go with the vest or dress I want to wear. I never feel like I have enough “business casual” outfits at the ready. And I’m still mad about the whole pockets thing. But I feel for the first time like I can show people the kind of woman I’ve become and be proud of it.
Author: Chelsea Robertson