Today I saw a lovely blouse on a hangar. I immediately exactly whose it was. It’s very typical of things she wears, will certainly look good on her, and held, in some way, a piece of her identity.
We’re all that way to a degree. But women have a much broader palette with which to paint. If the shirt I was wearing at that moment been seen hanging on a hangar somewhere, it’s considerably less likely that it would have been recognizable to anyone as mine, given that it carried no interesting details, was not an interesting color, and had nothing really to set it apart from a million other men’s shirts.
Men’s clothing is generic, often intended to blend in with the crowd rather than stand out. Men who wear clothing that stands out from the crowd often find themselves excluded from the crowd. There may be a similar mechanism at work for women, but there’s no denying that, to be one of the crowd, women do have to wear things which more blatantly expose and celebrate their identity. Uniqueness is valued and even prized.
I heard a transwoman on a video mention how much she “loved to be around women’s clothing” since she was very little. I can completely relate to that. And among the reasons is that identity piece. It’s a palette with which I would love to paint my identity.
As I thought about my comment yesterday (completing transition only to wear mostly jeans and t-shirts), I realized that even if that were the case, I would have so many more options in both jeans and tops — colors, cuts, patterns, detailing, fabrics — with so many different possible effects on how I am perceived — actual effects I would love to explore.
As a little girl, I always dreamed of frilly dresses and pantyhose and hair bows. But as a grown woman, a rapidly-maturing woman, I could totally imagine being content with a nice pair of girl jeans and a floral t-shirt-like top (finished with the right shoes and other accessories, of course).
Frilly options will be great to have, but women generally don’t live their lives in them. Neither would I.
Sitting behind a young woman, I noticed that her hair had been clumsily gathered in two clear plastic hair clips. The look, while not exactly unattractive, had a certain utilitarian nature to it that was both engaging and off-putting.
On the one hand, her hair has a feminine cut, medium length, but it’s an exceedingly plain look. Her femininity is not in question, of course, so she’s just chosen more or less the default option for her hair.
But today, something made her decide that she didn’t want it hanging down. Knowing her, and looking at her, it did not seem like a fashion choice as much as a practical one. Pulled up, her hair didn’t look really better or worse, just different and, I think, out of her way.
While I don’t think she is refuting her femininity in any way, she’s clearly not celebrating it either. To her, it appears to be unimportant enough to rate neither. It’s just a simple fact, the carrier wave for her life, but not something she likely thinks twice about.
Since this is someone I know, I can say that her clothing is always rather plain, if also always sufficiently feminine. She’s in skirts most of the time, but with shoes that might make you wonder whether she gets dressed in the dark.
And since she is a young woman, her “style” (if you can call it that) is certainly evolving, but not in a way that appears to be leading toward something distinguished. She appears to simply put on clothes, end of story.
What’s the lesson here?
Well, first it’s that women regularly have to choose between the practical and the attractive/feminine. It seems that the more feminine the garment, the less practical it is.
Second, it’s that personal style requires no one’s approval but your own. Anything goes, and you decide.
Third, there will be days when the practical wins out over everything. As a man, this has always been my way of operating. My “fear” of sticking with jeans after transition is mostly about this:
Being a woman and appearing attractive takes effort and attention. Practicality almost never wins. If I remain oriented toward practicality after transition, I will not succeed, nor will I be able to enjoy the fruits of the effort.
Basically, transition is a commitment to a way of life very different from what I have built and known. Can I accept that challenge and actually live it?