Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh
Little to no makeup and simple sturdy clothes: practicality. Perfect makeup and hair, and neat clothes: dedication and organization. Wild colors and big spikes: freedom, rebellion.
Clothing and makeup are artistic extensions of our personalities, and they deeply modify how we interact with the world. As with tattoos, the fact that clothes are worn on our bodies immediately connects them to our roles as people. We choose clothing based on our likes and dislikes as well as our personal values. In turn, the clothes that we wear have a huge effect on the way people understand us.
Unlike a tattoo, however, clothes are very easily changed. We can put them on and take them off effortlessly — assuming they fit correctly. This means that they allow us to try on roles, values and philosophies. Drag and costuming are very extreme versions of this, but it applies to smaller changes as well. Goth phases, girly phases, football jersey obsessions (I uh … don’t really know what sports people wear). People going through phases aren’t trying to be someone they’re not; they’re trying to figure out who they want to be, and then trying to become that person.
It may be hard to believe, but I didn’t have an “emo phase.” I had a “plain blue jeans and t-shirt phase.” I felt that skirts, dresses and the like were impractical and therefore immoral; I vehemently refused to wear makeup because I so highly prized efficiency and practicality. I wanted to be the best person I could possibly be, and my fashion choices were deeply connected to that.
My current fashion choices are still connected to that desire. I wear a lot of soft fabrics and loose dresses because I love being fat and soft and gentle. I wear tons of wild makeup because I want to show the world the vibrancy of my soul. I choose black because I find it soothing and spiked collars because they bring me joy. I have always dressed according to my highly utilitarian morals — it’s just that I’ve realized that utility is measured in happiness rather than efficiency.
I’m not normal, and I’m proud that I’m not normal. Sometimes I’m not beautiful either, and I’m proud of that, too. When I wear my regalia, the people around me recognize that loving honesty and are usually very happy to engage with and respect those parts of my soul. This is why wearing uniforms and brand-name fashion can feel so awful. It prevents people from seeing the parts of us that we would normally display in our fashion. It covers you up in logos, and suddenly people stop seeing you and start talking as though you are the company itself.
A startlingly large number of people look at my appearance and tell me, “I wish I could pull something like that off.” I usually just kinda shrug and nod, but truthfully, the answer is that they CAN pull it off. Every person on this Earth could dress just as wildly as me and look fantastic. Remember: You are amazing, and embarrassment is only a fleeting illusion with no real consequences.
I dearly wish to live in a world where everyone feels free to be as honest about who they are as I am. In the interest of making that a reality, I implore all of you to experiment with your fashion as often as possible. Wear that crazy hat! Flaunt that garish 80s vaporwave coat and pom-pom pants! Do that wild fae-inspired makeup you’ve always had in your dreams!
At the end of the day, fashion has no prescription. No rules or handbook. It’s just the outward expression of us, and there’s no point in making ourselves anything less than spectacular.