The Princess, The Tomboy and The Slut

For my 32nd birthday this year, Taylor gave me a book. It’s a special kind of book, in that over 600 women of all different shapes, sizes, religions, ages, locations, etc., contributed to it. The topic of this book is clothes—more specifically, how women think about clothes, and thus it is appropriately titled Women in Clothes. This was an inspired gift on Taylor’s part for many reasons, but mainly because it has been a continued source of information and a companion to how we are approaching this blog and where we want to take it. The book is almost 500 pages long and could easily have been 500 more.

 

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We, as women, have such a complex and intimate relationship with our clothes – how we see ourselves in them, what we want them to say to the world about us, how they make us feel when we’re wearing them. We wanted to borrow an idea from Women in Clothes and dedicate a blog post to a variation on one of the many survey questions that the authors ask their contributors.

 

Our question for this post is:

 

What is one thing you wear that makes you feel most empowered?

 

I really love this question because it forces us to think about a positive feeling that results from dressing a certain way or in a certain thing rather than the negative thoughts we are all guilty of having at some point or another when we get dressed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put an outfit on and then promptly taken it off because I thought to myself “People will FOR SURE think I’m a lady of the night if they see me standing on the sidewalk in this outfit and then getting into an Uber.” However untrue that statement may be, that’s not really the point, is it? These are things that we all consider every time we put clothes on our bodies. We fundamentally understand that we will be judged and categorized based solely on what we’re wearing, because this has been so literally ever since we were born.

In the beginning, we’re all princesses in frilly dresses and lace socks—at least until we’re old enough to start making our own fashion decisions. Then, if we deviate from the frills for a more casual aesthetic, we’re tomboys. Then, later on in life, the most damning category of all—the slut—gets introduced, and if we wear shorts above where our fingertips hit our thighs and spaghetti strap tops, this is what we are now. And so it continues. We’re all some form of a princess, a tomboy or a slut until we’re old and still unmarried and then we’re just crazy cat ladies. These archetypes follow us throughout our entire lives, varying in name, but staying consistent in foundation. As a result, we ask ourselves questions informed by these heavy expectations every time we get dressed.

“Is this too masculine? Is this professional enough without being too unapproachable? Do I look too stuffy? Should I dress more feminine so people will think I’m nicer? Do I look too slutty? Am I going to get unwanted attention in this? Am I too old to wear this? Too busty? How do I dress sexy without being skanky? Do I look too prissy? Are people going to think I’m spoiled? A gold-digger? That I only care and know about shopping? Will people respect me less if I wear this?”

There’s a great excerpt in the book that illustrates this pretty nicely. One of the authors, Sheila Heti, writes:

“… the cultural difficulty of being a woman is that you feel like you have to be a certain kind of woman. I experience the conversations in this book as a liberation from that. To me it’s also talking about how it’s OK to have your own identity in the face of all this pressure to have some other identity. Working on the book and seeing women on the street, I immediately began to feel I loved them more because I could see inside them in a new way. I had a new way of interpreting their outsides.”

So that’s that. We all have anxieties when it comes to dressing. We all worry what people will think, how they will interpret us, what category they will place us in. There should be some comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in this, and if nothing else, we should use this information to at least try to focus on the things that make us feel good about dressing, without judgment of ourselves or our fellow ladies. This is precisely why we chose the question that we did for this post.

And listen, we’re not here to tell you that you can’t judge people. You can. We encourage it. But why not judge them on something that actually matters, like their personality, or whether or not they’re a good driver, or the fact that they consider themselves a Chicagoan but you just saw them put ketchup on their hot dog? You know, important things.

So, what we’re saying is, if wearing that bodycon bandage dress with the 9 inch stilettos makes you feel like a total badass and not a stuffed sausage on toothpicks like it would me, then by god you better wear that dress and those toothpick shoes and you better WORK. You know why? Because you’re not a damn princess. And you’re not a tomboy. And you’re not a slut. You’re a grown-ass woman with her own unique personal thoughts on clothes who can wear whatever she damn well pleases. MIC DROP, BYE BITCHES!

 

Oh wait, not bye yet, we still have to answer the actual question… keep scrolling please…

 

What is one thing you wear that makes you feel most empowered?

 

 

LC: I knew the answer to this immediately. I don’t know where I first saw this, or who I copied it from, or when exactly I first started doing it, but the thing I wear that makes me feel like the bossest ass bitch out there is the statement necklace with the fully buttoned collar look. I can’t get enough of it. It might be a problem. I think what it is that’s so uniquely attractive to me about this look is that it skews the line between what would typically be thought of as masculine and feminine attributes in dressing – a stark, tailored, buttoned up shirt and large, sometimes grandiose pieces of jewelry – these two things counterbalance each other, so it’s not particularly masculine or feminine, and there is something about that that’s beautiful to me. It’s not abrasive in the statement that it’s making, but it’s also not quiet about it either. It succeeds in being both strong and subtle. Edgy and elegant. And most importantly, it doesn’t feel like simply decoration to me, it feels like armor. And that, by definition, makes me feel stronger and more powerful.

 

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Smoky Raven necklace by Barbara Pellegrino

 

When I wear this, there’s a noticeable difference in the way that I carry myself. I walk with a more determined stride. I hold my head a little bit higher. I’m not thinking about the fact that I skipped the gym that day and instead sat on my ass and ate an entire box of Honeycomb. I feel good about myself. I feel like I could talk to anyone, accomplish anything, maybe even kick open a locked door to save someone’s puppy from a burning building while still managing to look fabulous in the process. Endless possibilities of things I can do. And that right there, friends, is some empowering shit.

photo-oct-26-10-43-09-pm
Necklace by Fossil and Hide

Top Left necklace from Asos, Top Right necklace from Buffalo Exchange, Bottom necklace origin unknown (I’m sorry, I blew it). 

 

TFO: When we first talked about this post, I thought, “Oh, that’s easy. See-through shirts!” You see, for several years of my recent life, I barely owned shirts that weren’t some level of sheer. I had sheer button-down shirts, sheer T-shirts, sweaters with knits large enough to see a bra through, and an assortment of lacy underthings to match. My look was pretty much synonymous with havin’ my titties out, and this was because I finally felt good about my decidedly non-model body most of the time and wanted to celebrate it by defiantly showing off the goods. But then I finished grad school and went back to nannying, and the lack of opaque tops in my wardrobe became a problem. Because I like money and having a job, I set about correcting this, and now I realize MOST of my shirts cover my bewbs. WTF? So, while see-through shirts deserve a mention, they’re not really part of my present empowerment.

 

It didn’t take long before I realized there was another obvious answer to this question, though: bold lipstick. During my sheer shirt phase, I was often recognized at a distance thanks to my love of a bold lip color, and this is still true. I remember a person saying to me a couple of years ago, “I knew it was you because I saw your lips first!” and I thought, “At last. I have perfected my brand.” (I even tweeted about it, because I am the worst.) Anyway, I’m into makeup in general, as you’ve probably guessed by now, but before I knew how to blend eyeshadow, fill in my brows, or even apply blush properly, I was committed to lipstick. For a long time, I stuck to red—Stila’s Stay All Day liquid lipstick in Beso, which I highly recommend—but as dark lips came back, I realized that my witchy ass needed some of that in my life. I also love a gray-toned neutral, and I still wear Beso, although I’ve added some other reds to my repertoire, too.

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NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox

But what is it about a good lip that makes me feel empowered? This is trickier to put my finger on. On a surface level, I just feel more pulled together when my lips are done—“finished,” if that makes sense. My wardrobe can almost be a uniform at times—on workdays, I’m pretty committed to my template of white sneakers, jeans, and a black top—so lipstick is a way I can really change my overall look. Once my pout is on point, I’m officially ready to be seen. I think I also like darker colors because I feel like they telegraph that I’m not to be fucked with. I’m a nice person, but I also mostly want to be left alone, and a blood-colored lip tends to do the trick in that regard. Generally speaking, when I’ve got a gothy lip, the only people who talk to me are other women, which I vastly prefer.

 

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NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Copenhagen

 

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NYX Matte Lipstick in Up the Bass

Lastly, if you wanna get metaphorical, I think drawing attention to my mouth is one way of owning who I am. I’ve always been characterized as mouthy and often been made to feel like I talk too much (particularly, by men—SHOCKER, right?), and for a long time I tried and tried to make myself smaller and quieter, but I just couldn’t. Now, I’m learning to embrace it. I’m allowed to speak up. I’m allowed to use my voice. And I’m allowed to look like a bad bitch doing it.

Top Left: MAC Viva Glam Rihanna in Frost, Top Right: NYX Lingerie Liquid Lipstick in Embellishment, Bottom Left: Stila Stay All Day in Beso, Bottom Right: Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid in Possessed Plum 

 

Thanks so much for reading this post y’all! This one is very near and dear to us, and we hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. We encourage you to give us a shout and share what you wear that makes you feel empowered in the comments or over on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you! As always, we’ll C U Next Tuesday!

 

xoxo

TST

 

3 thoughts on “The Princess, The Tomboy and The Slut

  1. I was going to say that the thing that empowers me the most is a big necklace, but have not ever paired with a collared shirt. NEW LOOK TO TRY, HERE I COME.

    And Taylor, you have such a pretty mouth (I mean that in a non-creepy way!) so it looks even better in a bold color. XOXOX

    Like

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