The Woman in Black Article.

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I always wear the same thing.

Black trousers, black turtleneck, black Dr Martens with my hair tied up and a black tote bag or backpack. I do vary my socks, striped, woollen or mustard usually, but that’s about it.

Always mostly in black, every day, every evening. No choice, no deviation.

My experience with dressing myself and my journey of self-discovery through fashion and style is not an unusual one. Desperate to carve out an identity for myself that was one I could be proud of, I floundered and panic bought items for their pure aesthetic quality and the stereotypes they connoted. So obsessed was I of my appearance to others, I spent sums of money on clothing I never really wore and that just perpetuated my insecurities as surprise, surprise that one pair of boots didn’t fulfil my hopes and dreams.

As a consumer of ‘alternative’ media, such as feminist zines, publications such as Oh Comely and an interest in Esoteric Art and systems, I was smitten with the idea of being on par creatively and intellectually with the people featured. Mass media in my case cannot be blamed for my over consumption, and perhaps it cannot be blamed for anyone’s. The ease of purchasing and consuming only encourages a basic human trait that can be crippling- to affect how others see you in order to project and shape your own filtered idea of selfhood.

Actual progression and production requires hard work, attaining an aesthetic is easy, you just need the cash. So if there was an illustrator I admired featured in Oh Comely, I would want to look like them. It takes time to work on a talent or to make things, but it takes just days for a pair of horn rimmed glasses to arrive in the post so I can look like that artist .

It took me a long time to realise that what I really admired, and what all people admire in others, is what they do, not what they look like.

Imitation is not the best form of flattery .

My interest in wearing a uniform sprung from the idea of characters in fiction, they are memorable and instantly recognizable from that same outfit they wear in all scenarios. So, initially, the idea of a uniform for myself was perhaps a vain one, to be remembered.

I cannot pinpoint when the vanity dissipated, perhaps when I reached an all-time low in my mental health, which coincided with a nasty car crash. I needed to feel in control of my self-hood and my body. I floated around for months, and then I began to make choices, which deliberately made me feel uncomfortable like not wearing makeup- so I couldn’t hide my blemishes and scars- so I had to accept them. Cutting my hair, so I could not hide behind swathes of locks, so I had to face the world and it had to face me- with no distractions. And finally, wearing the same thing, all the time in order to force myself to not consume, to not lust after things and to really look at my body and my face with no variation in the material that cloaked it from the world.

For a while, the things I owned slightly disgusted me, I hated the idea of being chained to anything through stuff. The initial vanity inspired idea of the uniform morphed into wanting to own less and less stuff. To separate myself, my real self with the stuff I consume.

My uniform is all black, I decided on black because it is the most transitory colour. It can look arty, classical, morbid, casual, formal, youthful or archaic. Other people can project what they wish onto my body, but I am making no effort to shape what they see. Black also blends in, bright colours rebut against the grey Edinburgh buildings, black reflects the greyness. I wanted something that transitions easily from day to night, something I could wear to university lectures and to go dancing. Black is never inappropriate, you’re never over or under dressed.

Wearing the same thing perhaps makes little impact on strangers, but to the people who see you every day, it changes how they see you- that casual small talk opener of a complement on your appearance doesn’t really work if you always look the same. The beauty of a uniform is people stop noticing what you are wearing all together and thus, you, yourself don’t think what other people look like or wear is important.

A huge aspect of my way of dressing centres around my ideas on gender, which developed through numerous experiences and factors, I identify as completely gender fluid and I am attracted to people, not their assigned gender or societal roles. Clothing started to become an issue as I found it a land mine, androgynous dressing assumes you want to look more masculine, and that masculinity is heteronormative. Deciding to wear the same thing, every day was empowering for me, as I don’t have to think about it. I am a static body cloaked in black, my gender fluidity represented by my rejection of clothing as a representation of self-hood. Others can assume certain things, but at some point, assumptions will have to be replaced by discussion and connection with me, as my aesthetic is static.

I have realised that my physical self, my biological and anatomical body, is a tiny part of my self-hood, it ages, tires and betrays my mind and soul, it does not define me nor should it anyone. In a world where your self-hood is judged by your appearance and what you choose to cloak your skin with, wearing a uniform is a punk statement. A uniform escapes the allures of consumerism and forces the individual to look at themselves, their real selves and work on that.I always wear the same thing, because I want to do, not appear as if I am doing.

 

This piece was for Venus Magazine’s online Zine project, check Venus out here- http://www.venusfems.com/#!

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