Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Gaining Insight, With Your Help
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.
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...
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I suddenly wonder can't we just be gender-neutral?ReplyDelete
I mean you can have your boy-personality, but you can still be a girl too and wear a dress when you want.
I was born as a girl but when I was little I only played boy's games with boys, in elementary school I was over hyper wild (and even now I collect action figures and live stuff like Transformers and Star Wars).
People considered me as an "abnormal girl" as a kid, if I was a boy I would prolly have been normal then?
I think none is 100% one gender, even if the society gives such expectations.
I wish your point was true. Society doesn't permit crossing the gender line, at least not without consequence. Social ostracism is the price one pays for breaking that law.Delete
I'm an idealist :/Delete
I think it's awesome that you got so much from one post. I missed what you were going for, probably because I do have that idea to craft clothing into something that represents my own efforts.ReplyDelete
I don't think gender changes who you are inside. No matter boy or girl inside, we're still all people with thoughts and ideas and loves.
I think it's interesting that you feel you'd be the same person, regardless of your physical gender. I feel that so much of who we are as adults is based on the experiences that shaped us as children, teens (and yes, as adults). So if you had grown up female, your experiences would have been different.ReplyDelete
I wonder if being told to dress "male" your whole life has made you more sartorially expressive as a female. It almost seems like your clothing choices as a woman reflect years of being told to conform; now that you feel free to do what you want, you express it fully and without restraint.
But then again, growing up female, I (and I'm sure most other women) experienced an enormous amount of societal pressure to conform in our own ways. This style is in, that trend is out. I remember the first time a friend flat-ironed my hair, it was like a revelation. Like being given an invitation to a secret society. I know my tastes in fashion were developed based on my very-female experiences in my teen years. That style is still evolving (and now with more input from myself, less from society, thank god), but its roots are and always will be in the "girl code" I learned growing up.
Either way. This post is quite thought-provoking. Sorry for writing a novel :)
Thank you, buddy, for your valid points. You make sense.Delete
i'm not surprised that you would be the same person male or female. thinking of even the most basic things - i like cream with my coffee, i like a certain kind of dental floss, i prefer dogs over cats...none of that would change if i were male?? i mean, we are who we are.ReplyDelete
YAY! So glad that you were able to get so much insight and so much food for thought! Looking forward to how this continues to churn over and over in your head!ReplyDelete
I have to admit I love a uniform (mostly I love ogling men in uniforms...) and so I think I completely missed the point of yesterday. I even went back and looked at the pictures again, and I still think you looked really pretty.ReplyDelete
I am very glad that you were able have such cool epiphanies from yesterday, and that you shared them here.
And, I am totally stealing the last line of this post, I already have story swirling around.
I'm not saying the dress isn't pretty; it is, which is why I bought it; what I'm saying is that the outfit wasn't my creation, it was someone else's and doesn't reflect my style. I hope you do steal the last line!Delete
I love the idea of doing man/woman outfit posts!ReplyDelete
I think many women have been in "uniform mode" at some point in life... when we just can't be bothered with the extra effort required to make ourselves look/feel special.
I understand that. Sometimes life is too hard to care about clothes.Delete
Have fun, play around, try on things you are thinking, "Noooo" about and see what it looks like on--- you'd be amazed at what you never thought would be flattering could end up being flattering! I just want to acknowledge I hear what you're saying about the fact that you are delving deeper than just outfits choices here.ReplyDelete
I am not sure if I would be exactly the same as a man, I don't really think I would be... I believe gender is a social construct and we've all been shaped/limited by it to varying degrees.
So pleased you gained a lot from your post, I think your style is really evolving as a woman & I love cheering you on from the sidelines!ReplyDelete
Happy Wednesday Hun xoxo
What an interesting and thought provoking post Ally. I have to honestly say that I've never once thought about your blog or you in a transgendered way .. you are you and I agree that you would be the same no matter what gender you are. When I first saw your comment on my blog and came over to look the only reason I didn't immediately take to it was nothing to do with whether you were a man or a woman but to do with the fact it was a fashiion blog. I am the least fashion conscious woman I know ... (though I do wear dresses sometimes I dont get the accessorising stuff at all .. unless it's finding a riding jacket to go with my riding boots :) Now that I've got to know you I keep reading not just because of your wonderful and quirky fashion sense but because you are an interesting, kind, intellegent person who I enjoy finding out more about ... Thanks for being you Ally :)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Brenda. That's so sweet of you to say.Delete
You always do something that I hope I learn to do and that's discover who you really and truly are inside. It's honest, insightful and refreshing...to have this sense of self discovery is a gift...often times I put on clothes that I think will somehow create a new me (at least for a day) or even disguise me but perhaps I need to see it as a new dimension of myself...
So behind on blog-reading, and obviously going backwards through the RSS Reader, so I am dying to see the "uniform" dress. You've made me realize that's probably what I wear to work every day, because it's required by the nature of the work place.ReplyDelete
As a man, you wear beautiful shirts (I know, I've seen them), and as a woman, you wear beautiful clothes. Simple, right? :)
I like what you said in the beginning of this post about realizing there is so much we don't truly know or understand until we have actually lived it. With that being said, my first reaction to your writing was that, as a person (not gender defined) your taste would be the same.... Because regardless of sexual orientation, you are -you- This applies to all of us. :)ReplyDelete
If I had to single out differences between male and female and uniform and creative I would note the following: As a man, you seem well dressed, friendly but more serious. As a woman, you seem well dressed, friendly, softer and happier... Even in a uniform style dress. And, even in said dress, you still have a unique style (which is what all true fashionistas aim for).
Your description of me is spot-on. You have superb perceptive skill.Delete
I think you would have been similar, but not the same. I think there are aspects to one's personality that are a product of the fact that you were raised as a certain gender, the treatment you receive as that gender, and then also, one's looks, in general, and how they are treated based upon that. For instance, I would have different aspects to my personality if I had been extremely tall, or extremely good looking, as an example. Obviously, there's no way to tell what would change, but it is interesting to ponder. I grew up with an older brother, that I looked up to, so I often wondered what it would have been like to be a boy.