I had actually wanted to wear dresses for a long time, but it had always seemed like some distant abstraction. It happened very fast. I only started to concretize the idea in March when, on a whim, I did a personal shoot in a dress. 2 weeks later, I had an excuse to execute my concept in public, when my Philosophy of Nonviolence class invited a more creative and personal approach to finals.
I was to structure my concept around Gandhi’s Truth Experiment, in which you pursue a greater understanding of society’s covert and insidious forms of violence through self-denial and activism. I plotted my project to confront society’s treatment of gender and sexuality.
Gender equality is an exciting frontier, but it’s marred by a lot of anger and bitterness. It’s important to have a dialogue about these topics. It’s so easy to antagonize other people based on their contradicting views because it’s more comfortable than questioning your own. I think many progressives mistakenly alienate people by painting them as their enemy. It goes both ways. This mentality seems to be the trend of our times, present not only in politics but in most social issues. Now, the personal is the political, and not in a good way. I blame identity politics on our eagerness to label our perceived enemies. The discussion on gender and sexuality is a huge potential venue to change that direction.
I wanted to demonstrate that wearing women’s clothes did not undermine my masculinity. With this in mind, I planned and wore 6 outfits to school, all incorporating dresses and skirts while still remaining masculine looking. Instead of making an ethical statement on how society’s rules are wrong and cruel, I merely wanted to point out that we take these rules for granted and neglect to question them.
I mean, why should the number of “leg holes” in your clothing dictate your gender or sexuality?
One morning during the experiment, my mom saw me in a gray skirt with faded coffee stains and she pulled me into her walk-in closet to choose from her own skirts. I began to understand why my mom was really into Paul Smith once I collected my picks. There’s always a playful yet discreet flash of color in every Paul Smith piece. I also love pleats! I love to play with the old-school schoolgirl vibe. Floral patterns are also a go-to style, especially the ones that look like they came from an old botany manuscript.
I definitely look up to my mom when it comes to style so it only makes sense that I initially got my skirts from the piles of clothes that she had intended to sell to clear her overflowing wardrobe. As per her job, she’s expected to maintain the professional image of an anchor. Yet she always tries to break the rules to show her individuality without compromising that precise image. It really takes a lot of creativity, and I attribute my own to her example. I’ve also unintentionally surrounded myself with very stylish people. The fashion sense of newfound buddies like Renzo Navarro and Koji Arboleda truly inspires me to be more courageous with my style.
To be honest, dresses were the initial goal, but they’re so tapered to a woman’s form that it was very difficult to assert my masculinity in one. I was able to confidently execute it once, wearing a cocktail dress during the last day of the truth experiment in school.
The response has actually been excellent. I’ve only received a handful of judgmental looks versus a large number of unsolicited compliments. I’ve been hearing the word “admire” a lot more and it makes me blush.
The most surprising response to my stunt in school came from JSEC boys. Some of those who fit that description told me that they admire my style and courage. This was definitely the ideal response. I didn’t want to just preach to the choir and show off my style to like-minded friends. I wanted to engage those who wouldn’t have thought about it in the first place. I wanted some passersby to see my attire and go, “Wow, that actually works. I would have never thought of that.” It also allowed to me grow. I had not realized that, by labeling certain people as Atenean fuccbois, I had limited my expectations of them. There are many small and insidious ways to be condescending, and wearing skirts actually made me reflect upon that.
I guess the whole concept incorporates ideas from both genderbending and unisex dressing. I wear skirts to reaffirm my masculinity, conquering them for both sexes. I also wear skirts to play around with and showcase my femininity. I’m a very feminine boy but no less a man.