This is a long, rambling, thoughtful post, which you may or may not take the time to read. Overall, it is filled with realizations, and growth!
I have been “editing” my belongings for the past few years. Organically, one’s personal style changes over the years, and mine has been in a constant ebb and flow. One of the aspect of my evolving style was coming out to my friends and family. After this wonderful revelation, I was at a bit of a loss of what to wear (which may sound strange, but it created a huge source of internal conflict). I attribute my personal conflict to strong feminist beliefs, reading literature on the politics of femininity, and my growing irritation (and simultaneous interest in) some seemingly objectifying styles of clothing. All the while exploring every style of clothing I could get my hands on. My favorite clothes since childhood have been a mixture of tomboy and feminine. A mixture of modern cuts of fabric and vintage. Used and new pieces. I used to go mudding on my bicycle in my nicest Easter dress. Don’t you dress for the occasion when aggressively splashing through mud puddles?
Still though, it’s hard to fully identify with any strong signifier. This habit I developed along the way of wanting to compartmentalize my own style, put my identity into a clearly labeled box has GOT to go!
Once coming out, there was a whole new world of media to be consumed, stereotypes, styles, labels, etc. All of the newness brought confusion along with it. I grew up wearing either cut off shorts, covered in dirt OR with granny boots, tights and jumpers, OR coordinated hats, dresses, boy’s oxfords, and lace gloves. You heard me. Lace gloves. Suffice to say, I have a history of feeling comfortable in a variety of fashions. I didn’t feel confused about what I liked wearing until I started to assign meaning to those various fashions. The labels that come along with a certain mode of dressing. Lesbian labels, specifically: the butch, the femme, the soft butch, the dyke, the hard femme, all of which I’d witnessed and been educated about (from my “older” lesbian friends as a teen, meaning I was 18, they were maybe…21). Now, throw in a bunch of NEW signifiers. French chic, minimal dressing, tomboy, hipster, bohemian, etc. Where do I fit now? Or rather, what fits me?I felt more muddled than ever these past few years. As I merged my fashion with my growing and shifting identify, I had to set new boundaries for myself mentally and emotionally. For anyone that laughs off fashion as trivial, vapid, or meaningless…it can certainly have a profound impact on one’s developing identify, and of course as a form of self expression.
Where does minimalism fit into all this? After purging my closet multiple times (which can be as dangerous as a shopping spree for me, because it leaves new space, potentially to be FILLED). Minimizing your closet means putting everything under a figurative microscope and determining it’s true value. Not raw cost, cost per wear or resale value, but what it adds to your personality and “vibe” if it is allowed to stay. Now instead of a purge pile, I’m creating a “keep for ages pile” and a “don’t you DARE sell this pile” Why? Ultimately, because I’ve whittled things down to a pile of things I love.
Needless to say, the types of clothes I’ve been drawn to have changed. Some I’ve sold, after realizing I wasn’t as boyish in reality as I thought. There went the bermuda shorts I’d purchased, up on eBay. THEN, I realized I wasn’t as feminine as I thought I was. There went the silk maxi dresses I’d purchased, again, up on eBay.
I’m coming to realize that I’m the source of conflict, not any outside stimulus. Perhaps transferring confusion to my style identify was simply that, a transference. Instead of coming to terms with coming out, I shifted my angst to answering a question that really doesn’t need to be answered: “What TYPE of lesbian am I?” My wife answered it perfectly, the other night, as we walked through our new downtown area. She told me that “lesbians come in every shape, style, size, and personality and that my style, completely suits me”. Of course, I know that people come in every shape, size, and style. But it was a good reality check at the time. Does it matter if your style label coordinates with your sexuality label? It matters less and less to me, now. I’m just as gay whether or not someone “reads” my outfit as a “gay outfit”. I say this only because my wife is a bit more masculine presenting, and people immediately assume (rightly) that she’s a lesbian. Some days it makes me feel a bit left out of the fun crowd. Queer fashion is on the rise, and there isn’t always room for touches of femininity. Sometimes it’s included and acknowledged, other time’s it’s not.
I suppose all of this paring down has made me come to realize that I don’t have to donate or sell everything to see things in a new light! The simple act of becoming aware of what I chose to keep, what I love, and what makes me happy, IS seeing things in a new light. Only the items that truly don’t suit my needs or style habits. Everything else, I can continue to love, value, and make my own. Regardless of trend or season. Initially, paring down forced me to question my motives in releasing or acquiring items. Now it’s forcing me to question my habits, beliefs, self image, and self concept. The best part of my week was acknowledging that it’s okay to be a bit of everything! That feels like one more baby step toward authenticity and self acceptance, and I’m thrilled. More thought’s on this later.
How has your style evolved over time? What “aha” moments have you encountered whilst paring down? I’m curious to know!