Sunday, March 11, 2007

Style, Not So Much "Fashion"

Dear PB,
This is a great blog... but I wonder... what fashion tips can you offer to those among us who are, well, gender different? I am a somewhat "butchy" woman... Pants suits are my thing. Think Ellen DeGeneres. Any tips for the likes of me? (There are others...)

Dear Somewhat "Butchy" Woman,

Thank you for inviting me to "think Ellen DeGeneres," as I think she's absolutely adorable, effervescent, and a perfect example of someone who has an impeccable sense of her own style and image, and who unabashedly projects joy, generosity of spirit and genuine interest in the human species... all wonderful qualities for a minister to have.

I am trying to move away from the word "fashion" as often as possible because to me, that word connotes the whole "fashion industry," which is something that PeaceBang -- and most of us -- participates in in a very peripheral way, and THANK GOD for that, sez I. Otherwise we gals would be walking around in sheer babydoll dresses with black leggings, 4"lucite wedge heels, black nail polish and perma-pouts, and the fellas would be wearing mesh shirts and skintight white pants. At least according to the latest fashion spread in Out magazine.
So really, dear Somewhat Butchy, throw the concept of "fashion" to the winds if it seems intimidating and distant to you. Think of "fashion" as that kooky aunt you like to spend time with, but who you really shouldn't try to emulate if you want to be a respectable person in society.

Let's think "style" instead of "fashion." PeaceBang prefers to do that for three reasons: 1. she is a size 18 petite and they just don't make "fashion" in that size 2. even if she had tons of dough she would never spend $700 on a bag 3. fashion is for fashionistas, and for the rest of us it should be like art: an inspiring place to get ideas.

(This is not to say that those of you who are downright fashionable should stop being fashionable. We know who you are --KR in OH, I'm looking at you--and we throw admiring handfuls of confetti at you. Rock ON with your fabulous selves).

So, dear reader, you say you're a "butchy woman" and "gender different." All of which means that you're a pioneer in our society, and certainly in the ministry, and that you're constantly navigating people's intense reactions that may come from curiosity, from homophobia or from recognition and admiration. Whatever it is, and whatever it comes from, you are on the receiving end of it whether you want it or not. PeaceBang salutes you for wanting to be more intentional about the image you're projecting -- she just exhorts you to remember that your image is all about what you want to say, not what you think they want to hear. In other words, there is nothing about your personhood, butch, femme, whatever, that should dictate to you how you dress.
Let's explore that a bit more.

You say that pants suits are your thing. Does that mean that you really love pants suits, that you feel confident and like your most authentic, put-together self in pants suits, or does that mean that you sort of feel like you have to wear pants suits because nothing else really works for you, or because that's what people expect of you?

Do your pants suits fit well? Are they a color, cut and fabric that look great on you, or are they essentially cut for a man but marketed to women? Fit is important. Bad fit is very distracting; it can signal to people looking at us that we are living outside our bodies, and it can make us look not like we're dressed, but that we're "dressing up." This is a potential problem for ALL of us, but it has different consequences for people with the added complexity of gender identity issues.

SBW, I hope you can find someone respectful and helpful to tailor your clothes if you need to: you need to be able to talk about what you want without fear of being judged, a problem that people (gay or straight) dressing within gender stereotypes don't have to worry about. Never hesitate to say, "I have a vision of myself, and I need your help tailoring this outfit to make that happen."

Whatever look you want to cultivate, SBW, the same advice applies to us all: wear garments that fit, are clean and neat and help you feel confident, choose colors you love, and attend to details that indicate a basic awareness of current fashion. Have fun with it.

Let me know if this has been helpful at all.
Kiss of peace!
xoxoo PB


Anonymous kate setzer kamphausen said...

PeaceBang, I hope this is appropriate to say here .... I tailor, alter and make from scratch clergy clothing and liturgical garments (stoles, chasubles, etc.). I would be happy to make or alter clothes for any of you dear clergy pigeons!

Please respond here or email me at modiste at hotmail dot com if you are interested. I am in the Chicago area, have close friends who are genderqueer (and just plain queer!), and am a clergy spouse (and admirer!). I can send photos to anyone interested.

Special clergy discount, always!

2:49 PM  
Blogger Shaktidas said...

Hi PB,

WOW, thanks for this very well-thought-out response! Glad I checked back (this is Somewhat Butchy Woman, or "Shaktidas").

You give great advice. Yes, very helpful indeed! I'm truly impressed.

And for the record, I think I do actually like wearing pants suits... but they could certainly fit me better. I should invest in tailoring.

Peace kiss back atcha...

6:32 PM  

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