$86.47 To Make a New Person
What does clothing mean to you? To me, it is identity. I wear colors in the dark corner of the spectrum with the occasional exception for a muted, earthier tone. I dress like this because bright colors simply aren’t me. I can’t enjoy them, I can’t connect with them. That’s why I wear black. Black is interesting, black is enticing, black is emotional, and black is interpretive. Most people I have met have simply chalked up my appearance to ‘teen rebellion’, you probably thought the same when you read the third sentence. The truth is, I can’t find the comfort or the joy in yellow, for example, that I can in black. Once again, because of this, a lot of people poke fun of me for trying to be ‘edgy’ or ‘emo’ but honestly, that’s far from the truth. I’m not trying to look like Wednesday Addams, I’m not really trying to do much of anything besides feeling comfortable. We all dress in different ways, whether we dress to please our friends, family, or ourselves is our choice, but everyone has some distinct style that differentiates them from the person next to them, however subtle or however bold. Because of this, I decided to face my fear. The fear of standing out, the fear of being isolated from myself, the fear of loneliness. For this project I dressed in the bright, characteristic clothes of the eastern Pennsylvanian suburbs. In short, I lost myself…for a week.
On the Friday before the experiment, I went shopping, bringing one friend along, my resident expert on the average Main Line teen girl and their typical clothing habits. We went to a few stores in the mall, a few of which I do shop at, but not for the items I need now. I decided that each day on this experiment would be increasingly brighter, to see at what level people would notice. It was also an attempt make myself more comfortable, *spoilers* it didn’t work. I ended up buying a skintight pale pink shirt for day one that I will wear with black jeans, it may not seem like much of a leap but for me the prospect of wearing even a shirt like that was gutting. For day two, a light grey shirt with yellow flowers decorating it along with black leggings and white Adidas (which I did already own). Day three consisted of a pink tie dye shirt, also with black leggings and Adidas. Day four was a salmon (relatively FA8072 if you’re truly curious) t-shirt dress. And the ever-climactic day five was a bright pink hoodie with bright blue jeans. Once I got everything planned out, I thought I would be ready for this week. This thought was terribly naive because when Sunday came around, I was unable to think about anything besides Monday. I was terrified at the very thought of wearing something like that. This week is going to be hell.
Now, it’s Monday. I could write a 100 page list of the feelings I felt that morning, but for your sake, I’ll summarize: I felt as if I had eaten an entire thanksgiving dinner by myself, then proceeded to ride a tilt-a-whirl, hop off of that, and top it off by doing mushrooms (for those who don’t do drugs, shrooms are especially known for making people vomit). ‘Queasy’ would simply not do justice to this feeling. I get dressed, that post-suffocated piglet colored shirt taunting me as I pulled it on. I had to leave almost immediately because after glancing in the mirror, I damn near gave myself seven years of bad luck.
School was interesting. I got more comments based on the tightness of the shirt over the actual color, both of which I was scared of, but I felt one was more obvious. Clearly, I was wrong. I spent first period with the two other girls who helped me with this assignment, one of which I shopped with, and the other who helped me gather the idea in the first place. They both recognized it, but were more curious as to other people’s reactions. I went to third period, and one of my best friends acknowledged the shirt with a quick, “Oh, so colorful today!” and another friend commenting, “Damn, boobs”. As miniscule as both of these interactions were, I hated them. I didn’t even like the fact that they could comment on that. Day one, 9:19 am, and I have already considered changing into the black athletic shirt I had in my backpack for gym, on several occasions. I began to ponder whether or not I would be able to finish this week. The periods in which I haven’t many friends are of course the best. This thought was startling to me because they always make me slightly anxious, at least, but now I’m looking forward to them, that’s fucking weird. Lunch was…interesting. The second my friend saw the shirt she goes, “what the fuck are you wearing right now?” whilst looking smug and laughing slightly. I kind of wanted to slap her for that, but that is beside the point. The second she finished her question I blurted out, “It’s for a school project” because I just couldn’t stand the thought of other people thinking this shirt was me. After that, Monday was uneventful in terms of descriptively interesting interactions, but the entire day was a conscious effort to keep myself from vomiting.
Honestly, Tuesday’s outfit should have been day one. The flowers weren’t that visible. My clothing expert for the week tried to make me remove my jacket — to no avail. Because of that, the only people who really noticed were those who were aware of the project. Tuesday failed, whoops.
Wednesday. Wednesday was…an event. Pink tie dye was quite the leap from grey with muted yellow, evidently. During community period, I met up with another friend who had been growing suspicious of my wardrobe that week. She did notice, however she did not assume it was for a project. Her grand illation was that I was in love. Yes, she was completely firm in her belief I had fallen in love and this was my way of expressing it. Interesting. “Is it Theory Bae, is it [ex-boyfriend’s name], is it [mildy interesting male’s name]? WHO IS THIS NEW CRUSH YOU AREN’T TELLING ME ABOUT?!” I wasn’t shocked, but this did really reveal the importance of clothing, and just how much of my identity is tied to my clothing. If I’m being completely honest that is scary. It forces me to wonder if that is a cover-up or a mask that I shroud myself with. I think clothing helps to express myself, but has it become me? This sounds like absurd or melodramatic thought but, who am I, really, if my personality is whatever is in my drawer, and does anyone know me deeper than that dark outer layer? Do I? I decided not to answer those questions on a random Wednesday morning in public, just as a precaution. “That shirt looks like a used tampon” was also a comment I received, it didn’t quite warrant the same level of introspection.
Dresses are uncomfortable. The constant fear of mooning the general public is daunting, as well as the god-awful feeling or your bare legs against a chair that a number of disgusting teenagers have sat on, after sitting god knows where ever else. Also, pink, more pink, it was all pink. It is quite a lurid combination. Yet another reason this outfit was horrid is the fact that I am extremely pale, so pale I am nearly transparent. I will admit I put on some self tanner to get myself as close as possible to ‘normal’, trust me, it would be bad if I didn’t, but why am I defending myself to whomever is reading this? I don’t know, but back to the point, I was appreciably unenthused. I got so many comments on the fact I was wearing a dress. Similarly to the shirt it was more the article of clothing than the color. “YOU HAVE NICE LEGS!” was a very common remark that day. Full disclosure, I would prefer to keep that a secret, I am not a fan of my legs. I’m a bit too tall, somewhere around 5' 8"-5'9", so I kind of hate legs. Bringing attention to my legs is something I do not need, and definitely do not want. The whole day was comments about my legs, “They’re so long”, “All your height is in your legs”, “Damn, you’re paler than I thought”. To all of the people who feel the need to point out such things; I fucking know. I know I’m tall, I know I have legs, and I know you feel like you’ve seen a ghost, but, respectfully, fuck off. Enough leg banter, this outfit was awful. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that my ass could be exposed at any point, as well as the obvious underwear outline, the stress that that caused was not worth it. I was elated when I got home and could finally get the fuck out of that atrocity and into something that provides a proper barrier between me and the elements.
Finally, the climax, the grand finale. Visually-assaulting bright pink and sugar coma inducing cotton candy blue. I looked like a gender-equivocal newborn baby. I knew people were looking at me, for fuck’s sake I was practically a glow stick. So there I was, strolling through the halls, reflecting off the lockers, blinding innocent civilians, although, they should thank me, for the colors screamed so loud it must have snapped them out of their jaded 7:oo a.m. hazes. I sure as hell wasn’t tired that morning, if anything I was exhausted from the anxiety this week so graciously provided me with. I got so many looks, so many comments, so many assumptions about my state of mind. The looks were from everyone, my friends, fellow students, and even teachers. If you ever think teachers ignore you, they probably do most of the time, but, evidently, they will notice the most drastic changes. They need to validate your existence, but not necessarily your importance. Don’t worry, that’s just life. Now, all the comments were something along the lines of, “what the fuck is going on and where the fuck are we, some parallel universe?” High schoolers have very similar senses of humor, and they say ‘fuck’ a lot. The assumptions made me truly realize the magnitude of appearance. I received two major responses, one being that I have fallen in love, the other being that I was having a serious crisis. They were so firm in their beliefs that they actually had to confront me. The one assuming love refused to acknowledge any other possibility, she had decided, she was even a little hurt that I wouldn’t tell her who I loved. Contradictory to this assumption, the one assuming I was having a crisis pulled me aside to ask about it. She asked if I needed help, she told me she was there for me if I needed her, which was sweet but curious.
I wear black, yes. Many people think I am depressed, or just a wayward teenager because black is sad to many people. But I must question why? Why is one color more acceptable than the next, why is white positive and black negative? Do you even know? Perhaps it’s because light is daytime and daytime is fun, it’s happy. But what about those who prefer the night? What if the night was as happy as the day, the moon equal to the sun. If this was the case, would I still wear black, or would my new happy color be yellow? After all of this arbitrary contemplation and capricious recount of such, I have concluded that clothing is everything. I don’t believe it should be, but I can’t bring myself to change that fact. I can’t ‘rip off the bandaid’ and just become someone else. I wish the way I dress could simply be that, I wish I didn’t care about looks from other people, I wish I knew myself enough to do whatever I wanted, but I don’t. If you do, congratulations. For now, I guess I’ll…I don’t fucking know yet, maybe next year.