Fashion: A Way Forward
Beatrice Mitchell is this week's guest author. You can find her on Instagram at @trish_for_short.
My name is Beatrice Mitchell, and I am a transgender woman.
Finding where I fit in with fashion took me a long time. As a child, clothes felt both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. I felt ashamed and uneasy in my body, and clothes were an extension of that discomfort, forcing me to confront my reality one piece at a time. In high school, I found some measure of comfort in wearing graphic t-shirts. I considered them little billboards advertising the TV shows, movies, and video games that I liked, as well as projecting an air of nerdiness that I sought to cultivate. The baggy, loose nature of the shirts helped me find peace where a tighter fit would have brought attention to features that I loathed the most.
College was where I began to venture into the world of fashion, prompted by a desire to seem more attractive and interesting, qualities I feared I lacked. Gone were the days of Doctor Who/Firefly mashup shirts, as I now wore jeans and flannels almost exclusively. This worked for a while, and I found a new routine in waking up, picking a shirt, and picking out a pair of jeans from the rack of five virtually identical washes. I felt better about my style, and by extension, my appearance and confidence.
Things changed when I studied abroad. In the four months that I spent in Tokyo, I went through a metamorphosis of fashion — I’m blessed that most of the people I knew in college didn’t see me during this awkward, intermediary stage — aided by a suite of new friends that actually knew how to dress. I settled into an alternation of streetwear and prep, a duality that would continue for years until I had to confront the nature of my gender transition.
Although I had an understanding of fashion, my motivation always came from a place of insecurity. I was afraid to let people see the true me. My desire was to use clothes to cloak myself in a layer of “cool” or “suave”, and I felt better knowing that the vulnerable person beneath the sneakers and all-black wardrobe was protected from the outside world.
Once I started transitioning, I saw a whole new way of experiencing fashion. Dressing became about showing the real me instead of hiding below layers of fabric. All the outfits and vibes that I had secretly wished I could wear and project were now available to me. In the beginning, all I wanted was dresses and skirts, blouses and leggings: trappings of femininity that helped me feel whole. As I matured, came out to my friends and family, and started living my life authentically and openly, my lens of fashion refocused towards finding aesthetics that truly appealed to me.
The subtle androgyny of streetwear appeals to me, letting me feel comfortable to express control over my own perceived masculinity. Sneakers are comfy, and I’ve returned to the graphic t-shirts of my high school days, albeit with edgier messages.
The ‘80s inspired denim looks — I’ll admit, inspired by Stranger Things — let me feel feminine, but still able to project an element of queerness that I felt necessary to assert. It also feels comfortable taking inspiration from the time period that my mother and her sisters were the same age that I am now.
Witchy vibes help me feel disconnected from my masculine past (plus I look good in black). The flowing fabric is yet another emphasis of queer power. It’s liberating not having to tone down an attitude of strength and resilience.
The greatest part about dressing myself is that I can reinforce what I want to show the world. It’s a language that doesn’t need words. On the days that it’s hard to speak up, what I wear sends a message better than I ever could. I can protect myself when I feel weak, and project myself when I feel strong. For the first time, when I put an outfit together, I build myself up instead of breaking myself down.