One important lesson I've learned in life is that there is much we don't know. We make assumptions about unknown experiences but, until we actually have them, we don't really know them. Frequently, I've tried something new and found it to be completely different from what I expected. This taught me to embrace new experiences and not rely on assumptions and expectations.
Yesterday, I tried something new. Truly new. I wore a conventional dress with no creative input from myself. That experience -- and your feedback on it -- has given me intriguing insights.
Some people wear clothing without thought or creativity; they merely put on what society tells them is appropriate. Many women, however, and certainly all fashion bloggers, make conscious choices about their clothing. They creatively select garments, consider how best to present them, and mix them with other pieces to make an "outfit". This laudable effort differs from the unthinking approach taken by others, for whom clothing is simply covering for their bodies.
Despite being raised a boy, I was always actively conscious of how I present myself. I deliberate on the clothes I pick, I style them with aesthetic choice, and I'm always pondering what reaction my appearance is likely to elicit.
Yesterday, I wore a conventional dress without any effort to style or individualize it. I didn't even wear jewelry. I wanted to see how that felt.
This almost didn't happen. On my way back from court in the morning, I stopped by my favorite thrift-store and browsed the dress-rack. A dress called to me because it's purple (my color), it's big (my size), and it has stripes (attractive). Then I noticed how traditional the dress is: its design is distinctly prim and conservative.
I am not conservative. I have always been bohemian, with an inclination toward flair. I embrace bold designs; I love bright colors. Normally, I create my look with conscious choices on its elements and their interaction.
This dress prevented any of that. It, itself, is a complete outfit, designed to display a traditional feminine look. In this sense, the dress is more of a uniform than an outfit.
Because the dress isn't what I'd normally wear, I put it back on the rack and kept shopping. But I wondered, what would it be like to wear such a conventional garment? What would it be like to dress like a woman who merely wants to fit in and not stand out? How would it feel to cede control of my appearance to society, rather than my own judgment?
I walked back, debated this in my head and decided to learn the answers to these questions by actually wearing the dress. I wondered if the experience would change my beliefs.
The primary insight I acquired -- which you helped me reach -- is that I have an individual style that is independent of gender-presentation. Regardless of whether I'm presenting as male or female, I create outfits that are self-expressive and not conventional. I don't wear clothes like a uniform; I create looks with aesthetic considerations.
Your feedback was fascinating. You made several terrific points. One thing I learned, which I wasn't aware of before, is that you see me having a style I didn't know I had. My adoption of female clothing is so recent and rudimentary that I assumed I didn't have a style in women's clothing; yet you perceive one and accurately observe when I do (and don't) show it.
One commenter suggested that I try dressing for an event in both male and female clothing and see how the two looks compare to each other. That's a terrific idea. I think I'd exhibit a consistent style despite the different gender-presentations. Which leads me to believe that I'd be the same person as a woman that I am as a man.
Whoa... let that sink in a bit...
One thing I wrestle with, the depth of which I'm not sure you grasp, is my struggle with gender-identity. When you're raised as a boy and told that you can't be a girl, you wonder what life as a girl would be like. That prospect is unknown. It is a mystery, of great importance but elusive understanding. What would my life be like as a woman?
The answer to this is obvious but, despite being obvious, is a challenge for me to accept -- I'd be the same person as a woman that I am as a man. I'd have the same inclination toward sartorial flair; I'd gravitate toward bright colors and bold designs; I'd make the same aesthetic choices. I'd reject wearing boring clothes like a uniform; I'd express my individuality with eclectic and unusual accessories.
All this knowledge from just wearing a dress...