Best Leader Who Realized Human Wisdom,*
I have two fashion- and not-having-money-related questions I humbly wish to ask, that we all may receive some of your most well-dressed wisdom. (Wow, with a salutation like the above, it's almost impossible not to write in that tone.) The situation: I lived out west for ten years while working in IT culture, and neither of those are conducive to learning, well, how to dress oneself. I am sick of looking frumpy *and* I live in rather fashionable Toronto now, with frequent trips to very fashionable Montréal and New York.
I have even found some designers I am very fond of -- for example, Kaliyana's fall/winter catalogue. I think my mental image looks something like the lady on the cover in blue and orange.
So the questions are: How does a person learn to look good--especially when one is trans-identified (and thus missed out on the youth socialization thing) and is surrounded by people who just don't care how they look? And how does a person afford to look good when they can't spend $250 on a skirt, no matter *how* awesome it is?
(Also that thing about dumplings in New York would be great to know, too.)
Yr humble supplicant
* it was either that or World's Best Ideal Leader with Versatile Talents, but I had to choose one.
Dearest Supplicant! What a delightful conundrum you have presented the Rejectionist with to-day!
Let us begin with an anecdote: for a long, long time the younger Rejectionist was terrified of giant hoop earrings. Why, you might ask? Because only cute girls wore hoop earrings. Because only stylish girls wore hoop earrings, girls who were very femme and knew the secret rules of how to put lipstick on and make your hair smell like fancy shampoo. Because overly tall, gawky, poorly socialized, mocked-throughout-adolescence, nerdy, awkward, gender-nonconforming people DO NOT WEAR hoop earrings. No matter how much they might COVET hoop earrings. Because if they DARED to wear hoop earrings the WHOLE UNIVERSE would be all like, "What is that LOSER doing in hoop earrings, does she not know that only STYLISH AND ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE wear giant hoop earrings." This state of affairs continued for quite some time. For reals. It was as though the hoop earring took on an Enormous Significance: the Significance of Daring to Admit We Might Like to Be A Stylish Person Also. Which is, you know, a lot of baggage to attach to an earring. Finally one day the Rejectionist said to herself, "You know what? Fuck it," and bought some giant hoop earrings, and put them in, and gazed at herself in the mirror, and thought: "OH. We look ADORABLE in hoop earrings." And out into the world we went, feeling quite pleased with ourself, and did we receive many compliments on our hoop earrings? Yes, we did.
What's our point? Our point is this, dear one: the first step in becoming stylish is BELIEVING you are a stylish person. Maybe for you "stylish" is hoop earrings. Probably not. Perhaps instead it is nattily cut bespoke suits, or lovely flowy brightly-colored dresses, or platform heels, or super-sexy outfits, or a tutu and combat boots. Perhaps for the Rejectionist of today it is "the kind of gay boy that gets photographed regularly by Hedi Slimane, but sort of more nineties, and with square meals." WHATEVER. Doesn't matter. This is the underpinning of your life as a fabulous person: your belief, straight down to the very core of your being, that you ARE a fabulous person. That is a gift only you can give yourself, and it is hard-won; but it is free. You can try some Rejectionist Motivational Exercises, if you find them helpful. (Basically: 1. Look in mirror 2. Shout, "I AM A MOTHERFUCKING FOX." Repeat as necessary.)
NOW THAT THAT IS OUT OF THE WAY, and you are basking in the radiant light of self-love fabulousness, let us turn to the Pragmatic! Firstly, let us take stock of the Garments Which You Possess! Take an afternoon, enlist a friend if needed, and be RUTHLESS. If you feel frumpy in something? CAST IT ASIDE. DO NOT EVER WEAR IT AGAIN. REMOVE IT FROM YOUR HOME. DONATE IT. WHATEVER. JUST BANISH IT FROM YOU. If you feel frumpy in ALL your garments, you may need to be a little less drastic, so that you have something in which to clothe yourself for the time being; but that is the end goal. ALL FRUMP TO BE ELIMINATED. Even if it's something you get complimented in, if YOU feel frumpy in a garment, you will ALWAYS feel frumpy in a garment. It is hard to embrace one's self-love fabulousness when one is spending the entirety of one's day displeased with one's outfit.
Now! Let us go out into the world and conduct some Research! Here is your Assignment: start people-watching like nobody's business! Pay attention to people whose Ensembles you find stylish. How do these Ensembles fit? How are they cut? What colors are they? How is that person combining textures, or styles, or colors? Sometimes we are quite shameless about asking people where they got things--what is a moment of embarrassment, compared to a lifetime of excellent shoes?--but you don't have to do that if you don't want to. The Fashion Blog, it is also your friend! While the bulk of high-profile fashion blogs definitely lean toward very young, very thin ladies in very expensive, very clunky shoes, there's plenty more out there if you look. Style Bubble, à l'allure garçonnière, Sea of Ghosts, Young Fat and Fabulous, Hel Looks, and our pen-friend Meg of Good Morning Midnight are some places to start (we will spare you all the gothy ones, as your sample mental image indicates your tastes may lie elsewhere). Once you have a clear idea of what you like, you will have a clear idea of what to look for.
As for the Budget part: you must become an aggressive surveyor of thrift stores, a zealous peruser of sales; if you like shopping on the internet (we don't), that can be one way to find good things on the cheap. We are not a big fan of disposable fashion stores, like H&M or Forever 21 (sweatshops! so depressing!) but they can be useful if you are hunting down some particular Hot Trendy Item to test-drive. It's always worth it to save up for something nice you will wear forever. NEVER underestimate the power of diligent vintage-store hunting; New York (and, we assume, Montréal) is lousy with these sorts of places. Also: SAMPLE SALES.
FINALLY (at last! whisper the Author-friends with relief, those brave few who have managed to read this far, OBVIOUSLY THIS IS A VERY PLEASING SUBJECT TO US), while we do not have the experience of being a trans lady, we do have the experience of being a lady who has spent significant portions of her life being uncomfortable in her body--just like pretty much every lady we know: straight, queer, trans, cis, femme, tomboyish, or any other permutation of "lady" a person can imagine. Being a lady is whatever the hell YOU want it to be, and don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise. Also, if you figure out how to put on lipstick without it ending up all over your face, maybe you will pass on this secret to the humble Rejectionist.
(Dumplings: Vanessa's, on Eldridge and Broome.)
The Great Questions of Our Time may be addressed to rejectionistandyourmom[at]gmail.com.