Fashion Friday: Being Appropriately Inappropriate


When I was writing my piece last week on fashion and age and sex, and on trying to use fashion and style to express my sexuality in a way that’s age-appropriate, there’s an important idea that I left out.

It’s the idea of appropriateness vacations. Events where “inappropriate” is exactly what’s appropriate.

When I get dressed in the morning (or the afternoon — hey, I work at home now, I typically don’t get dressed until the afternoon), I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to dress in a way that’s appropriate, both for how I feel and what I’m going to be doing. Is this blouse dressy enough for the restaurant we’re going to? Does this jacket strike the right balance between “authoritative” and “accessible” for the talk I’m giving? I want to look both formal and festive for this holiday party — is this dress right for that? I don’t resent it: I enjoy doing it, it’s my primary hobby, and I get a kick out of it.

But a few times a year, I find events where I feel entirely comfortable wearing whatever the fuck I feel like. I find events where, fashion-wise, all bets are off. I find events where “inappropriate” is not only appropriate, but welcomed and indeed encouraged.

Ingrid and Greta at Dyke March 2011The Dyke March. My friend Jezebel’s Solstice parties. The Perverts Put Out! reading series. A party I threw last year, where I encouraged guests to wear whatever they had in their closet that they loved and looked awesome in, but that was a little too much: too formal, too trashy, too garish, too costumey, too slutty, too ridiculous, too severe, too over-the-top, too something. (A party at which I dearly wish I had taken photos, because my friends came through with flying colors.)

And this keeps my everyday consideration of “what’s appropriate” from feeling constrictive. It keeps me from having a sad about how, now that I’m fifty, I will never ever ever again wear miniskirts and fishnet thigh-highs and combat boots. Or whatever.

Let’s say I’m shopping for clothes, and I find something that is way too short or low-cut or flashy, but that looks TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME on me. Let’s say I’m thinking, “Damn, I love this, want want want want want — but where on Earth would I ever wear it?” I have my answer. “I can wear this to Jezebel’s party. I can wear this to the Dyke March. I can wear this to Perverts Put Out.”

Greta in damask stockings and steampunk jacketI might not buy it. I might decide, “I already have enough wild slutty things to wear to Jezebel’s party and Perverts Put Out.” The same way I might decide, “I already have enough suit-like things to wear to conferences,” or, “I already have enough little sleeveless dresses.” But knowing that I have options for being my slutty, over-the-top, “I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of me” self, options where I can do that and not feel ridiculous or desperate or out-of-place… that keeps me from feeling sad about the fact that, most of the time in my everyday life, I’ve decided not to go there.

It’s a little like weight management. A big part of my weight management plan is that, one day a month, I eat whatever the fuck I want, and don’t count calories. If I didn’t do that, I’d get obsessive and deprived and sad about all the things I want to eat and can’t. The difference between thinking, “I will never again in my life have a day when I don’t count calories” and, “I’m counting calories all this week but am totally blowing it off for Kanani’s birthday dinner at Nopa”… that’s a big part of what makes counting calories every day seem do-able. (I realize this doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.) And while I enjoy my over-the-top food indulgences, they also remind me that I don’t, in fact, want to eat like that all the time, or even most of the time.

Greta in red corset and bowler hatAppropriateness vacations with fashion are like that. They keep me from getting obsessive and deprived and sad about all the things I want to wear and can’t. And they remind me that I don’t, in fact, want to dress like that all the time, or even most of the time.

Just sometimes.

Comments

  1. carpenterman says

    Alas, we men don’t have those kinds of options. Our fashion choices and range of dress are so much more limited. (Well, for us vanilla heteros, anyway.) I pierced my ear when I turned fifty, and even that drew some sideways glances; like “Really? At your age?”. I can only imagine the reactions if I tried to dress wild and slutty.
    One thing; I’ve always loved how you refer to your love of fashion as your “hobby”. It puts it right where it belongs on the scale of things; fun, even important, but not the last word on who you are. Far too many people seem to feel they are defined by their fashion, rather than defining it.

  2. says

    Goth clubs – they let me flex the fashion muscles without looking totally out of place. (Unlike those times when I convince myself that this all black fishnet, shorts, scarf combo will go over fine at the museum of fine art.)

  3. Dami says

    What a lovely idea, the fashion vacation! In my middle age, with a different personality and more importantly a very different body than what you have (I have next to no boobs, no waist, comparatively large butt and thighs and am thin everywhere else) I usually dress ‘masculine’ i.e., the closest I can get to male business causal I can find that fits me. I mostly buy male accessories btw, especially since my shoe size isn’t especially womanly. And I’m working my way from the long to my ass hair of my late twenties-early thirties to a gender neutral, short haircut (currently cropped at jaw line).

    Still, occasionally I like to go all out and dress in what I feel as drag: skirt or dress, make up, jewels, heels. Usually for a party or other such occasion. I find it fun, and have been worried it means I’m overdoing the butch side, but reading this made me feel that I just want to dress up in a dress every now and then. Thanks for the feel-good!

  4. Michaelyn says

    I like to use Halloween as an excuse to wear something I never would otherwise. I love this post, Greta.

  5. Laura-Ray says

    Haha I agree heartily with this post. I love wearing ridiculous things to Rocky Horror shadowcastings. The only thing that makes me sad is not having enough of these sort of things to dress up more for. I love putting on crazy outfits, but now that I’m semi supporting myself, I can’t afford conventions or faires :(

  6. says

    Alas, we men don’t have those kinds of options. Our fashion choices and range of dress are so much more limited. (Well, for us vanilla heteros, anyway.) I pierced my ear when I turned fifty, and even that drew some sideways glances; like “Really? At your age?”. I can only imagine the reactions if I tried to dress wild and slutty.

    You know.. I am absolutely **glad** I don’t have those sorts of choices, and I can imagine more than a few women probably wish, assuming they didn’t get, “shopping Barbie, and her all pink store”, as a child and have it stick, that they didn’t have to worry about this sort of stuff either. lol

  7. rork says

    Like carpenterman, I have few options anymore, and am bored by how undaring our straight young men dress (and I’m in a college town). Earlier years could have found me wearing skin-tight knee pants (Got Tracht?) or skin-tight everything.
    You can let off steam at certain events though, like late October (or Fasching, if you’re in Germany). There’s the solstice “wear white or nothing at all” parties. For me, certain festivals with older fashions can help. I don’t let a chance to wear tights get away easily. Does it look fluffy or obscene to some? Not my problem. If you look both ways, it might be more satisfying.

  8. carpenterman says

    #8: “I don’t let a chance to wear tights get away easily.” As you damn well shouldn’t.

    Last Valentine’s Day, a young man who works in the local supermarket (in a quite conservative community) was there wearing his work smock over hot pink tights. And I mean HOT pink! Even if I had wanted to laugh, I wouldn’t have dared to. Show me a man who’ll go to work in hot pink tights and I’ll show you a man who isn’t afraid of anything.

  9. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Fortunately, clothes are low in calories and full of fiber :D

  10. Greta Christina says

    I am absolutely **glad** I don’t have those sorts of choices, and I can imagine more than a few women probably wish, assuming they didn’t get, “shopping Barbie, and her all pink store”, as a child and have it stick, that they didn’t have to worry about this sort of stuff either.

    Kagehi @ #7: What I want is a world where men have more choices, and can express themselves through fashion/ style if they want without being dismissed as girly or queer — and where women aren’t pressured into making it a priority if they don’t want to. I want everyone of all genders to have lots of options — including the option to not care that much about it.

    May I inquire as to where you purchased those corset tops? They’re fabulous and I’m in the market for one.

    Jessica @ #11: Dark Garden.

  11. says

    Wasn’t saying anything against options, just saying that, probably due to the attitudes of the rest of my family as well, that its just not something I care about at all. Sure, maybe if its some party, and one has to fit it, or something, but otherwise.. the closest I think I ever got to wanting an option **personally** is briefly considering if I would be attending enough “Elliot/Eliot/Eliott/Elliott Family” festival/fair things to think about getting a kilt. lol

  12. ik says

    SOOOOOOOOO feeling this. (Incidentally, Greta, I’d love to hear what you have to say about men’s fashion.)

    I love the idea of the clothing that is a little bit … too much parties. Or even just the idea of that being a thing, some category of events.

    I really want to dress more formally, on an everyday basis, than is the norm, but I feel out of place and dont. And I almost kind of want the norm to bow to me, instead.

  13. Gregory in Seattle says

    I have some friends who identify as gender-queer, and this being Seattle, they can get quite imaginative in their fashions without raising too many eyebrows. We don’t all wear corderouy and flannel, you know.

    As for me, my “appropriately inappropriate” attire usually involves a Utilikilt. I have gone out in a nice black “mocker” (Docker like pockets rather than the cargo pockets that most of their kilts have) with a dress shirt and dress shoes: not exactly a typical ensemble. And for gay pride, kilts are especially fun as it leaves folks guessing, especially when I’m also wearing a kilt pin that reads, “Blue Ribbon Brigade.”

  14. neXus says

    It’s a shame that the stockings & jacket look is ‘inappropriate’ – you look spectacular in it!

  15. says

    Hiking boots, very light, very thin kilt, and Black suede tassle vest. Yeah, I get some interesting looks in my “fun” clothes. Incidentally, I totally second the call for Greta’s thoughts on men’s fashion.

  16. TenGalaxies says

    For me, fetish and kink events are my chance to wear things that would otherwise be inappropriate. I’m much younger than Greta, but still don’t feel right wearing a mini skirt to a normal bar. And since I work in the high tech industry, wearing a skirt to work is edgy enough. Look at a workplace of mostly men to see how much disrespect “feminine” presentation will get you. Or formal presentation, for that matter. At a software company, it’s a point of pride to be able to dress casually for work, and most highly gendered clothes are not read as casual in the right way. Jeans and t-shirts all the way.

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