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.
The 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.”
I 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.
Appropriateness 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.