Recently, I feel like I’ve been fighting a bit of an uphill professional battle. It’s been frustrating, demoralizing, and above all absolutely draining. In an effort to lift my spirits I’ve been refocusing my efforts on pursuits I am deeply passionate about. Work can drain my proverbial battery, so I need to recharge it by focusing on fashion. No matter my mental state, focusing on fashion always helps me work through whatever issues I’m facing. It’s how I process, and interact, with the world around me.
Now typically, I am somewhat personal in blogs, but I try to only get into personal matters about ‘knee deep’. However, I’ve felt really moved by reading a few more personal stories from j-fashion friends this week. I think we get too wrapped up in this notion of ‘projecting the perfect life’ and forget that in the end, we are all just imperfect people in a world that seeks to pit everyone, especially women, against each other.
At the beginning of the year, I spent some time really thinking about what I wanted to accomplish this year, and one of my big ‘goals’ was to be my authentic self, unapologetically. With that in mind, I decided to forge ahead and write up a more personal post.
“What does J-Fashion mean to you?”
- A Way to Communicate with the World Around Me
I have always been obsessed with language, how it functions, how to utilize it, it was always my weapon of choice. With a witty retort on the tip of my tongue, I was armed and dangerous, but I soon found it impossible to use language any other way. Using language to express myself, and my feelings, was always challenging that grew exponentially harder as I grew up. It felt a bit like holding my breath, the longer time went on the harder it became. Suddenly, language became my crutch and I used it to deflect and steer the conversation to more comfortable talking points. I like to be in control, it was, and is, so incredibly hard for me to be vulnerable or to convey the complex emotions within me.
Fashion became my preferred method of communication.
It’s difficult to explain, but the prints I wear are symbolic of my interests, of things I find to be calming, things I find to be aesthetically pleasing, and most importantly things I deeply enjoy.
Every piece I own has a story behind it, and each print represents a memory I hold dear.
When I wear Gelato Bear it reminds me of the warmth of the summer sun and my dear friends Mina, Cheerie, and Sarah.
When I wear Romantic Messages it reminds me of being tucked away in between the stacks of books at the library and the feeling of being surrounded by so much, wonderful, knowledge.
When I wear Sweet Savon it reminds me of the countless summers I spent at the beach with my family. It reminds me of the wind in my hair and the sounds of laughter mixed with the rolling waves of the ocean.
When I wear Holiday Street it reminds me of hot strudel fresh from my favorite stand at our local German Markt and my Mom’s smile.
Each dress doesn’t simply exist but serves as my attempt to communicate a feeling, a memory, a state of being, even if I can’t properly verbally express it.
Oftentimes I feel as though emotionally I communicate deepest in memories. For me, my dresses are a way for me to communicate this outward, even if the majority of the people I interact with don’t understand it. What matters is those I hold closest do.
I find it fun that my therapist can guess how a session will go purely by what I’m wearing. She knows if I come in in ‘normie clothes’ we’re in for a rough session. If I’m wearing a print dress I’m focused on something in particular, and if I’m wearing a plainer OP I’m pensive. My boyfriend tends to agree with this, he can tell how I’m feeling just by how I’m dressed.
I may not always be able to accurately convey the softer side of myself through words, but I can put on a dress that I feel expresses those sentiments.
- It Is My Armor in an Inherently Misogynistic World
The unfortunate truth is we live in a society that hates women.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, nor am I going to belabor the point. I could spend pages talking about it point by point, but that would serve no real purpose. Every woman reading this blog knows it, and more than likely you’ve experienced both causal and deliberate misogyny.
While a lot of my early youth was fighting with what it meant to be feminine, I now lean on it for strength. Rather than act ashamed of my gender, as we are often expected to do in a professional environment, I lean on it. I love showing up to work in my Liz Lisa dresses. It is not only a great start to my day but reminds me throughout the day of what I’m working for.
Now of course I face sexism for how I dress, I expect to. This brings me to my main point.
It is much easier to experience sexism when you expect it.
Dressing up in a hyperfeminine fashion day after day allows me to be prepared with a witty retort because I am expecting it. It can be hard to deal with sexism when you are caught unaware. It blindsides you, washing over you like a cold, rogue wave. It’s a shock to the system that can cause you to freeze while your brain processes the information.
I’ll even give you a little insight on why I love being hyperfeminine so much.
When people see you dressed up in a hyperfeminine outfit, especially in a professional environment, they’re going to put you in a box. They’re going to ascribe you all the nasty, misogynistic, adjectives they have. They’ll think you’re stupid, gullible, and whatever else they wrongly believe femininity to be.
That makes it that much easier to combat them.
If you know the box they’ll put you in, and you know its dimensions, it is that much easier to break out of.
I love being underestimated, I think it’s incredibly fun to trap these men with a wit they most assuredly weren’t prepared for. Dressed in pink, feminine dresses, everyone expects you to behave like a Disney Princess, polite, deferential, and doe-eyed.
Unfortunately for them, my personality is much closer to Severus Snape’s than Sleeping Beauty’s.
The stark contrast most often catches them off balance, and it’s much easier to push someone down when they’re off balance.
It’s crass of course, but in the world of business an advantage is an advantage, and I’ll take what I can get.
3. It is My Motivation
I do, of course, have a softer side.
While I do enjoy the politics of business, it is difficult for me to interact with people, and I find it to be extremely tedious. It can be difficult for me to go from meeting to meeting, talking about projects I’m not very passionate about. But when I cast my gaze downwards and see the print on my skirt it never fails to warm my heart and remind me of why I work so hard in the first place.
As I’m writing this, I’ve been here at the office for almost 10 hours now. I start an hour early to work on j-fashion side projects, and I stay late to finish whatever I started in the morning. When I lose motivation, or I’m tired I simply have to look down and I’m reminded to keep at it. I’m so inspired by such beautiful pieces, and I’m so incredibly passionate about it. Even when there is nothing left in the tank, I can operate on fumes when I remember I close my eyes and imagine all of my favorite pieces back at home waiting for me.
Maybe that’s a bit odd, but I’m tired of pretending to be whatever society arbitrarily designated as ‘normal’. Haven’t you heard? Cringe culture is dead, we are unabashedly loving our interests now. Nothing that warms your heart in this cold, troubled, world can possibly cringe and anyone who tells you otherwise is jealous of your passion and your heart-felt sincerity.
It is easy to be cold and aloof in the modern world, it is an act of resistance to be invested and inspired.
When I was younger, I used to dread waking up in the morning. I’d burrow further into the sheets and despair over everything I’d have to do that day. I felt unmotivated to interact with others, and only really appeared at night. Now, I look forward to waking up and getting the day going, because it means I can get dressed.
I love pulling open my closet door and looking at all of my options, it’s so genuinely inspiring to be surrounded by such beauty. My closet brings me so much, genuine joy, and every day I look forward to getting ready.
There is so much more I could say. I could talk about how JFashion has helped my self-image, or how it’s connected me to a wonderful community. But those are topics for another blog, so stay tuned!