Today has been pretty terrible, and I’ve managed to write neither of the posts for my new ‘personal essays’ category that I’ve been planning. I did write something else, though, because I did remember today how nowadays my clothes feel like my armour, empowering me against the world.
These days, I feel like me.
I walk down the street, and I feel like me; I feel like me, and it feels wonderful. Not only do I have body confidence that seems at direct odds to my mental health, but I also feel like I’m better at expressing myself through my clothing.
This morning, I bought two new books from Waterstones, sat reading one of them while eating vegan chocolate and raspberry cake, and then walked home. Most of today has been, quite frankly, shit, but those twenty or so minutes were good. There was sunshine and fresh air, and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window and was happy with how I looked, in my bright tights and dungaree-shorts and big fluffy scarf.
Something has clearly changed, because I can’t remember ever feeling this much like myself.
Maybe the biggest change is that I’ve cut my hair. My desire to cut my hair came into being alongside my certainty that I was gay, though I’m not sure there is a direct correlation. I got close to my desired length in my second-to-last year of high school, but my parents talked me out of it with the reasoning that I’d want actual hair to style for prom. Recently though, I was brave and spent more money on a hair-cut than I had before.
I walked away from the appointment not only feeling amazing, not only feeling queer (it’s amazing what an undercut does) but feeling like me. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me how well my new style suits me; it makes me wish I’d cut it this short years ago. Nowadays I love my hair when it’s a tangled mess, when it’s big and poufy, when it’s carefully straightened, and especially after I’ve been fucked.
(I think I look really cute after I’ve been fucked.)
No longer being self-conscious about my hair has improved how I feel about my overall appearance exponentially. However, there’s something else that helped as well: I’ve stopped trying to look like other people. A crush on a pretty girl who I wanted to think that I was pretty meant that I did my best to dress like her. Perspective suggests she’d have respected me more if I’d been myself instead of hoping that copying her fashion style would make her view me as beautiful and sophisticated.
Nowadays, I wear clothes that make me feel like me. Skinny jeans and brightly coloured t-shirts with political-ish slogans (“No Human Is Illegal”, “I Am Not My Anxiety”) on the front. Denim shorts, shirts over vest tops, and Doc Martens that make me feel like I can take on the world. Pretty skirts, with knitted jumpers and boots with a tiny heel. I dress to feel human, on bad anxiety days; I dress to feel cute, when I want to feel good about myself; I even sometimes dress to feel sexy, when I’m hoping to see a cute human who I’d like to kiss.
Today, if a pretty girl likes me, they’re going to like me for the way I dress. The mismatched Doc Martens (one pink, one lilac-blue), combined with a t-shirt demonstrating good fingering technique, and white-lacy cat ears? I think I look cute, and I certainly feel confident to chat to the gorgeous girl in the feminist-literature section of Waterstones. In my swirly skirt and Ravenclaw scarf, I blush a little as I flirt with the guy behind the counter in Starbucks, who’s wearing a badge with his pronouns on it and asks if I can guess what his Hogwarts house is.
Oh, and that’s the other thing: as well as feeling like myself, at home in my own skin, I now feel confident. Not the whole time – that would be ridiculous. I have days when I want to hide in pyjamas and big hoodies, but more and more I realise that getting dressed feels good. There are also days, though, where getting dressed already makes me feel like I’ve achieved, and because I’ve showered and pulled on clothes that make me feel pretty, I have the confidence to go and make shit happen.
I also like making a statement in how I dress. I wore a suit on my very first date, because I felt that if the guy who’d asked me out couldn’t deal with me in black-suit-jacket, tight jeans and black boots, he wasn’t someone I wanted to be on a date with. On one hand, yes, I have some internalised misogyny that I’m still working through, but on the other I looked hella cute. With straighten hair, an ironed shirt with cute little bees on it, and a smile hiding my first-date-nerves, I was unapologetically myself that night.
I like being unapologetically myself. I have a bi-pride flag pin on my jacket. I have a Feminist and Proud patch sewn on to my back-pack. The ring I sometimes wear doesn’t symbolise my commitment to anyone, but my commitment to being kind to myself because I’m a kick-ass human being. I’ll happily defend my queerness and my politics to the world, and wearing clothes that make me feel like myself help me feel brave enough to do so.
These days I feel like me, and I love it.