Discovering My Identity and What I Wore
An Ephron-inspired look at how finding your authentic self can influence your closet, and vice versa
Coming of age and what I wore
I don’t remember what I was wearing that day, but I remember sitting in Freshman hallway with my friends at lunch time and someone walking by complimenting my outfit.
As if it was her job, my “best friend” fired back at the compliment-er with a “oh, you should see what she used to wear.”
It didn’t matter that now at 15 I had started to discover my own fashion and was finally able to find clothing in my size that appealed to the senses of the teenagers I shared an academic life with. In that moment I was 10, wearing a bright, multi-colored striped shirt with Wal-Mart jeans and Payless tennis shoes.
It was, and even today still is in a different way, hard to find clothes. I have always had broad shoulders and a broad torso to match. And my family didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. So that meant a lot of clothing from stores that ended in -Mart: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Bi-Mart …
And even though a few years of therapy have somewhat skewed my relationship with my mother, I still recognize how hard she tried to make sure I had clothes to wear.
Though there were a few years where she insisted I wear polos and skorts and jumpers and khakis — essentially school uniforms when my school did not have uniforms — for which I will not thank her, once I turned 8 it was whatever I felt fit my ‘style.” And if we couldn’t afford something or I had a very specific want, she would knit or sew it for me.
I recall one year I really wanted ponchos — no idea now why — and she knit me this chunky, ombre blue and purple poncho with a big turtleneck, which I’m fairly certain is still hanging in my childhood bedroom.
She also over the years sewed me a Sleeping Beauty dress, a pink pussy cat suit, a Hermione Granger robe, a Sailor Moon costume and she pretty much single-handedly made me into whatever character I desired.
Coming out and what I wore
When I came out to my mom, I was probably wearing leggings and a t-shirt and draped in a heavy shawl of anxiety. I knew my mother voted to legalize same-sex marriage and she had never once spoke of homosexuality like it was wrong, or bad or a sin. But I was still worried: worried that she would treat this like she had my anxiety.
Was it possible she’d suggest that “thinking positive thoughts” might solve this too?
When I came out to my mom, she was wearing dark circles under her eyes and clothes wrinkled from a long drive after a long work day.
I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, or even saying anything, but as she sat at my dining table munching on snacks I’d prepared and I stood in my kitchen pouring drinks, I just kind of blurted out “and I don’t think I’m straight” among my other ramblings.
She didn’t really react, or say anything.
Then, about a week later, I was talking to her on the phone and said “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable during your visit with what I told you.”
She said: “No, what do you mean?”
And then I thought: “Is it possible that she was so tired that she didn’t even hear me?”
I was partially right.
She heard me, but she didn’t fully process what I’d said, so the next thing she asked on the phone was: “So you are gonna break up with your boyfriend?”
“No, Mom,” I said. “I’m not a lesbian. I’m pansexual.”
The following June, my mom sent me a message saying she’d sent me a package of something she thought I needed for Pride month.
They were blue, pink and yellow ankle socks from Bombas.
“Those are the pan flag colors, right?” she said when I called to let her know I got them.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered. “Thank you.”
Since coming out as pansexual, it’s had an unexpected effect on my wardrobe. While I’d embraced the crop top well before I claimed my place in the queer community, I felt a whole new level of body positivity and — dare I say — freedom.
I was already out in what I believed to be every conceivable way, so why not let me clothes also show my authentic self?
Besides a handful of creative queer-themed t-shirts, I began to allow myself to buy clothes for comfort.
As a die-in-the-skinny-jeans Millennial, I have been wearing Old Navy’s mid-rise skinny Rockstar jeans for years. And while I still have a few pairs of this old staple, after I came out I bought what are now my go-to denim: boyfriend jeans.
They are a vibe. And I like that vibe.
I also bought some baggy chinos, more crop tops, rainbows for days, and I started to feel more comfortable than I possibly ever have with my plus size body.
For years of my youth, I think I wore tighter clothes and slimmer silhouettes in an attempt to give the illusion that I was thin.
Now at 29 years old and 290 lbs, I have embraced that while my body is not always this size, it is still my body at this size, and it is still a good body at this size.
The last time I was around this weight, which is my heaviest to date, was when I was 23. I was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship; I was suicidal, and I hated what I saw in the mirror.
The first time I noticed my weight, I stared at my naked body in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself.
Now when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t know how I ever felt that way about my body.
In the nearly four years since I came out as pan, I have slowly started flowing between my brand of tomboy-esque femme and more gender neutral clothing.
Coming out (again) and what I wore
I was wearing mustard yellow chinos with a dark blue patterned, button-up short sleeve shirt tucked in the first time I really felt valid in my identity as gender nonconforming. I started using she/they pronouns in spring of 2022, and going by Brit, which just felt better, by fall.
Now I still fluctuate between femme and more of my brand of androgynous looks. I don’t wear many dresses, but I’ve been known to rock the royal blue mechanic’s jumpsuit I thrifted for $7 with large statement earrings and heeled boots. I don’t wear my frillier blouses as much anymore, but I wore a deep-cut romper with a satin bow around my neck to the first drag show I’ve attended since college.
Identity, like style, is subjective. And now that I’m fully 100% out as myself, I get to decide what clothing fits my identity.
Though there are numerous societal ideas about what’s feminine or masculine, or even now what looks “gender neutral,” the only idea I’m subscribing to is what feels right to me.
That look might morph over time, like fashion does, because identity isn’t static. Over time we all evolve and change. And what better way to remember those changes than to look back at what we wore?