A bitch is known for her self-respect and fearless voice, which is why I apply a coat of NARS lip pencil in “Wicked” every single morning. Geezus, that sounded like an advertisement, but I promise it is not. Donning red lips serves as a reminder to me of how powerful my voice can be - if and when used effectively. It’s a statement that makes me feel: confident, in control, empowered, and fearless. While I’m well aware of how lipstick influences my disposition, I never considered how my clothing might do the same.
A couple weeks ago, motivated by my craving for “intellectual intercourse,” I signed up for a creative women’s workshop designed to express one’s self through five different art forms: dance, writing, drawing, painting, and photography. I was hoping to not only further connect with the creative side of myself I’d been neglecting, but to connect with others on an artistic and an ensuring and more deeply personal and intimate level. Several conversations emanated throughout the night including one about clothing. Though, it wasn’t one of the art forms we were studying in our curriculum, I instantly recognized that it certainly could have been.
Admittedly, I never looked at clothing as an art form. Meaning, I’ve never approached dressing my body the same way I would approach painting a canvas, or even my face for that matter. To me, clothing was always function over fashion. Sure, I’d pull looks from Pinterest and try to replicate them so I looked like I had style, but I never thought to throw different fabrics together with the purpose of expressing myself artistically, or relaying a particular message I wanted to share with the world. In fact, if there ever was a message I shared, at least subconsciously, it was “I hope I’m good enough. I hope I blend in.”
Prior to attending class that evening, I’d always told myself I didn’t understand fashion. Conversely, the truth was a fear of standing out and/or getting the wrong kind of attention kept me from ever really engaging in it. Too worried about: getting it wrong, seeming unapproachable, appearing high maintenance, or inviting men to objectify me, I’d consistently rejected fashion, instead opting to cover up and fly safely under the radar. It was as if I was not only hiding who I truly was, but apologizing for someone I felt ashamed of being. I couldn’t help but think how, despite the fact I’d found and celebrated my voice in one aspect of life, I was completely neglecting it in another. Not only was getting dressed a daily opportunity to creatively express myself, it was a way to use my voice without ever having to utter a word. For someone whose pride lies in self-respect, how had I managed to stay so silent? It was time to start making some noise.
The next day, I attempted to construct an outfit with limited judgment and ample artistic liberty. I wore a black, plastic, pleated skirt I’d found at a thrift store. Though it reminded me of a witch, there was something about it that caused me to take it home with me that day. It sat idly in my closet ever since. I paired it with an oversized charcoal grey sweater and Chelsea boots, threw on my black Madewell drawstring tote, and coated my lips with a shade of berry. I was only going to meet a comedy friend of mine for breakfast at a diner in Culver City, a fact I was sure he’d point out upon seeing how over dressed I was for the occasion. He didn’t.
As we crossed the street from our cars to the patio of the restaurant, I could feel heads turning. And, while I usually shy away from attention, I couldn’t help but soak it in. Hindsight would suggest it’s because I often misconstrue attention for judgement…I suppose that’s easy to do when you’re living in the midst of your own self judgment.
Throughout breakfast, servers complimented my ensemble, affirming I had nothing to fear dressing like the bitch I am. I was attracting the same kind of women they saw in themselves, and I grew excited by the conversations that transpired as a result. When I arrived home, my neighbor’s English friend fumbled over his words in my presence. Though it was obvious he found me intimidating, it was surprising to find I actually didn’t mind. In fact, I kind of liked it. He eventually asked if I was from the East Coast, a question anyone who knows me can attest I take as a compliment and wear like a badge of honor.
Finally, I had given myself the permission to express myself free from self-judgement and self-conscious restraint. As a result, people, including me, were seeing me the way I’d always wanted to be seen, including myself. Without ever using my voice, I was telling the world who I was, and not only were they receptive, they were embracing it. My fear had given way to freedom, and I’d never felt more liberated.
I’m aware there will be hits and misses, lovers and haters, but as it is with all art, the point is not to appease, it’s to express. So, what do you want to say?
How do you think your wardrobe plays a role in how others see you, or how you see yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts! - Comment below.