I can tell you how I did it. But first, some back story.
Some back story
I was never particularly interested in fashion, growing up. In my teens and twenties I tended to wear whatever was trendy and I imagine I looked a lot like I’d walked out of a L’Oreal Studio Line Wet Look Hair Gel advert.
In my thirties, it was whatever was comfortable. In my forties, it was whatever was closest. Yes, I’m amazed that I’m not a social media influencer too.
In therapy it emerged that, as I left the trendy stage behind, I’d basically just spent the next two decades unconsciously dressing the same way as my Dad. A lot of things about me hinged on my relationship with him, it turns out, and it’s a theme I’ll return to often. I imagine that if you’re reading this looking for help, you have a similar trigger event.
Once Dad passed away, it was like a large part of my personality just slipped away permanently, like a cheap holiday rental cottage on a Yorkshire coast cliff. One of the things that I lost was how I should dress once that I didn’t have him to copy. I looked at all the loose polo shirts, shapeless jeans and work shirts with frayed cuffs and felt physically sick. I threw about 80% of my wardrobe away.
Getting to the point
The first thing I tried was to work out what I liked. At first I used Google Image Search but eventually went for Pinterest, partly because so many people post pictures of their outfits there and partly because it gave me a convenient place to save looks that I liked.
What I discovered was that I was equally drawn to outfits posted by men and women. I’m not transitioning, I’m not a crossdresser, I just liked the way women’s outfits looked. Also – and I never understood this – women can dress just like men and it’s never called crossdressing. I don’t know what to do with that, it’s just a ‘huh’.
At first I was quite militant and started collecting pics of AMAB individuals in skirts, dresses, tights etc. I am still very angry and confused at the concept of a square of cloth and some buttons being gendered, but one fight at a time. I was close to the point where I only owned underwear, socks and winter hiking gear.
This is the picture where everything really clicked into place for me.
Because I realised that I didn’t actually have to be jealous of this outfit, I could just wear it. I bought skinny black jeans from Gap. I bought a black polo from H&M. And I bought a mustard colour wool sweater from Tesco. The ballet pumps weren’t really me; I did have some patent black Cons though and they go perfectly well.
Now, I collect all sorts of looks and then translate them into my own way of dressing. You can use this method with clothing that you already own, too – if I already had a mustard coloured sweater, I could have searched for “mustard sweater outfit” on Pinterest and got hundreds of results. You can refine that as well via Pinterest’s suggestions, so you could make it into “fall mustard sweater outfits” and see how that changes things (I always dress for autumn anyway). If you need to, create a secret account and start pinning to that until you feel a little more comfortable with it.
I’m still quite militant about clothing in some ways. I definitely don’t believe that a piece of cloth can be gendered just because of its colour or texture. I don’t see the problem with men wearing something that is pink or has frills (which totally would have got me a good beating in the school yard), or is made from lace or silk, or even wearing something that is more sexy than practical just for the way it looks. Unfortunately I’m not quite brave enough – yet – to fully put my money where my mouth is so you won’t – yet – see me shopping in Victoria’s Secret or wearing fishnet stockings to work.
For now I’ll keep pinning outfits to my Style : agender / androgynous / nonbinary / genderqueer / gender neutral board. As you see, I have sections for outerwear, underwear, footwear, nightwear (empty at present) and now a new one for Cosplay – but that’s only because I have tickets for Rocky Horror in February and am determined to go either as Frank or Magenta.
I think the important thing as you’re starting to reinvent yourself is to be really comfortable. When I first started pinning, I would check my board every morning and decide which look I would copy before I got dressed, because I didn’t really trust my own choices or what the mirror was telling me. But over time that’s getting a little easier each day, and it’s also making me a little more adventurous with my choices, and also where I shop.
To begin with, when I started mixing men’s and women’s pieces, I would only ever buy women’s clothes online. One of the problems I have is that being only 5’7″ I have smaller legs than average and it’s very difficult to buy men’s jeans with both a 28″ waist and 28″ inside leg. But one day, when I was looking for some skinny jeans that matched a look that I wanted, I found the perfect pair in Gap in the women’s section (‘True Curvy Skinny’). They suit my shape well because there’s a little more room around the backside than might usually be found in women’s skinny jeans. Plus. in Gap, they measure jeans by the inch rather than dress size, which works out perfectly.