what it really means to dress for yourself: an ode to my platform docs

written by stargirl

When I turned 19 I bought myself a pair of the shoes I had been dreaming about for years: black platform doc martens, the kind with a clunky zipper up the side. Being a huge supporter of sales and savings, I had never spent that much money on one item of clothing. But these were going to be THE shoes for me, I knew they could go with any outfit. 

Coincidentally, that summer, I came out to my parents. This is not a story about queer fashion, but rather what happened after I came out that changed how I viewed fashion. My mom had asked me if I was questioning my gender identity as well. I was a bit taken aback by this–I am incredibly privileged to be a cis female, and had never said anything to my mom about gender expression. She went on to tell me that it seemed my style in clothing had gotten more androgenous, going for baggier silhouettes and shorter hairstyles. This sparked a long struggle with myself; why do my fashion choices have to be gendered? I like the way men’s shirts look on me, but I prefer women’s pants. Men’s shoes fit better because they are wider. Does any of this have to mean anything?

Most of my life was spent being scared of clothes. In middle school I hid behind sweatshirts every day, in high school my only outfit was a band tee with a flannel. I always had an interest in fashion, but it was something I didn’t feel comfortable showcasing. On the rare occasion I showed up to school wearing something out of my comfort zone, I was rigid and self conscious all day. I genuinely believed that everyone would judge me for trying. When I got to college, I started putting more effort into my wardrobe. So when that comment came from my mom, I started to panic with my choices. I put my platform docs on the highest shelf in hopes of being viewed as “acceptable” in class. I couldn’t get it out of my head that my style was always going to be reflective of who I was, and I couldn’t be too out there. Why would I ever think that?!

Fashion can be a really fun way of expressing yourself. Don’t get it twisted though, I don’t think there’s anything wrong about being more “casual”. In fact, I am an avid believer that no one has “bad style,” whatever that means. Everyone has different ways of expressing themselves–some through clothes and some not. But no matter what you wear, it’s some reflection of you. And how can that be ugly or outdated? It’s you! Style should not be a competition. 

After having some of my first identity-affirming experiences as a queer person in the last year and a half, I saw that my clothing choices started to become a deeply personal journey. I got creative, I went thrifting a lot. I started feeling really confident when I would wear something kind of weird to lectures. I have been attempting to train myself not to automatically gender any of my clothing, which has proven to be hard mental work (but so, so worth it). I found that this channel of expression was something I was not only excited by, but actually really proud of. I spend a lot of energy picking out clothes these days, and some might say it’s vain, but I enjoy every second of it. I finally found the confidence to show up to everything and anything in my favorite shoes–my platform docs. They might not be the wildest shoe choice out there, but every time i put them on, I feel a bit more like myself, and I think that’s exactly how fashion should be.

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