I’m currently sitting with a friend doing some laundry. I’m wearing sweatpants, an oversized blue sweater, and bad posture that comes from hours of research on a computer (or maybe it’s the hours of Netflix). My friend, sitting alongside me, is slightly more put together, donning dark colored jeans, boots and a pink sweater. It probably comes as no surprise that my friend is clearly the better dresser. What might surprise some is that my friend is a Cis, hetero male, while I am a Cis, hetero female.
For me, clothing has always been about comfort. If it’s hot out, a T-shirt and gym shorts. When it’s cold? Sweatpants, warm socks, and an even warmer sweater. Clothing (and thus, style) is often considered a form of self-expression, and for me, it’s no different. My choice in clothing is my way of telling the world I am more concerned with comfort than the latest fashion trends. My ‘self-expression’ is simply not caring. However, my choice of clothing is not about appearing less female, in fact, I embrace all aspects of my "femininity".
If I had a dollar for every time I was told that I “dress like a dude” or “look like a dude” or my personal favorite “ you must want to be a dude”, my college tuition would have been easily paid for. Why is it then, that my choice of clothing isn’t viewed as a reflection of who I actually am, but rather who I am in relation to society’s view of gender?
If you were to look in my closet you might be confused. First, because it’s a wreck (sorry parents), but really because if you tried to assume my personality based on the contents of the closet, you wouldn’t be able to figure me out. The sweatpants, leggings and basketball shorts that lie in a heap at the bottom don’t give you any information about who I am (ok, I do play basketball...) but besides that fact, my clothes don’t tell you squat about me.
When you see a woman in a tight, short dress, wearing heels, makeup and a lot of jewelry, what is the first thing you think? I’m pretty sure it isn’t “she looks brilliant and I bet she just aced her MCATs”! What if you saw a man in the same outfit? Where would you mind go then?
We live in a world where clothing is just beginning to be viewed outside of gender. There are some cool mission-based companies (like RIGit) that are pushing the proverbial envelope. But what exactly does that mean? Are we simply putting a middle finger up to the corporations that are still trying to divide us by the gendered stuff they sell? Or rather, are we as a society, striving for something more? I’d like to think it’s about a major shift in attitude, in perception and in understanding. Who we are at our core, can and should never be defined by a stereotype. Some fabric, some thread, a button, a zipper, form, function, comfort, style…they have their place but they cannot and should not define who we are.