Quick note to say that the opinions stated here are the opinions of the author, and they come from deep seeded self-esteem issues, college-aged feminist outrage, and her own damned mind. If you are a woman and disagree, I applaud you, if you agree, I also applaud you. We’re all entitled to our own goddamn opinions.
So there I am, standing in Totokaelo in New York City. I’m wearing a pair of vintage bootcut medium wash Levi's that I have cut at the bottom so the smallest line of fringe peeks out. I pair these fucking beautiful jeans, compliments of my mother’s closet, with a navy blue American Apparel wife beater crop top and my white Achilles low common projects. Not the best outfit I can put together, but a pretty standard design, especially for an eighty-eight degree day in the eau-de-garbage city of New York.
Anyways, now that the image of my outfit is clear, I am in Totokaelo looking for Visvim. It will be my boyfriend’s birthday in a few weeks and I am desperately searching for the Visvim indigo chore coat with red accent. Which has led me to Totokaelo. Now, this store is way too cool for me and my friend, who are wearing giant chromebags because we didn’t have a consistent place to stay for the weekend, and the dudes who are working there know it. But I have a special secret super power: I date a sneaker head/ clothing fanatic and after two years of dating and walking around discussing the outfit choices of passerby, I happen to be pretty well versed in the circuitry of modern fashion.
So I chat with these Totokaelo fuckers. I had asked Lawrence Schlossman on twitter to hook a girl up with where to find Visvim in NYC, and he sent me their way. I drop the name, because I instantly felt like I needed something to make them respect me, otherwise I would never get a single question answered. And they bought it. They got all flustered and started chirping. The way fuckboys chirp when they talk about fashion, always interrupting each other, trying to validate their cultural awareness, never finishing a sentence, always trying to best one another. Once I tell them that I only got the recommendation from twitter, I had lost the battle. They were off in their own little world again making fun of me and talking over each other at each other. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Totokaelo is completely amazing and their selections are leagues above most shops in Chicago.
Yet, this felt like my Pretty Woman moment, before she comes back with all the bags from other stores, except in the menswear section of a bougie NYC boutique.
I am not an Emily Oberg girl. I am a girl with uncomfortably big boobs and a moderate ass and I know about style but I’m not loaded enough to be decked out in head to toe Vetements paired with Gosha socks (WHICH BY THE WAY I WHOLE HEARTEDLY WILL SAY IS NOT ACTUAL FASHION BECAUSE YOU ARE WEARING WHAT SOMEONE ORCHESTRATED FOR YOU). I have some dope pieces, like a Yohji Shirt, one pair of Acne Jeans, and some Rachel Comey stuff that kills me everytime I look at it. And most of the stuff I wear I know I look badass in, it gives me confidence, it makes me feel like I stand out. But since my primary fashion goal is to look like a dad from the 1970’s, I am cast into this weird part of the female ‘mainstream’ fashion world.
It seems that I am given this choice: Either I’m cool or I’m fuckable. Either I can get cool points by wearing my Supreme x Commes des Garcons collab, or I can put on a pair of small spandex shorts with my Kanye Paris shirt with my tubular dooms and try and look like an Instagram Girl. And I can do either pretty damn well, I can finesse each of those roles. But I can’t find the middle ground. Maybe somebody else has found it, still the only person I’ve seen who is able to blend the two is Taylor Alling, and she’s so stunning she can do whatever she damn well pleases.
Despite gender lines becoming blurred, the fashion requirements for feminine presenting women seem to be getting more structured. The need to define oneself within the scope of femininity is becoming more specified. I feel this especially hard when I watch women who stare into their phones on snapchat, mouthing along lyrics playing with their hair. We are all seemingly a copy of another copy of someone else. How many women out there can you spot with long pigtail French braids, a baseball cap and something Adidas and label them as a Kylie Jenner. Or the women wearing Calvin Klein underwear which inch up from their Re/Dun denim and a halter top that look like a Hailey Baldwin, Whatever her name Hadid girl, and Kendall copy. Either way, there is safety in copying people, but that is not a signifier of style. If you steal an outfit from women who are literally nothing but advertisements, you can already see the outfit’s approval. If I saw an outfit on Kylie’s Instagram, I can measure the success of that outfit based on her likes, and then when I wear a copy of her outfit, I already know that it’s a success.
I feel a deep sense of jealousy in these women and their confidence, in their ability to put on layers of contouring makeup and stare into a phone without feeling like a puppet controlled by the views of the patriarchy. I can barely put on a skirt without feeling that I am catering to the male gaze. The problem is that I dislike sacrificing what I believe is better style, gravitating more towards menswear, for a shirt that shows boob. I’ve literally never seen a women’s v-neck shirt that wasn’t exclusively made to show tit. That design sacrifices ingenuity for sex appeal. But everybody has seen a boob, not everybody has seen a white Marni Blouse with a mandarin collar. To me, the orchestration of the clothing should matter more. I’ve got a good body, I’ve got good legs. I like to show them off. But finding a way to mesh the two distinctions is more trying than simply fitting into the “Cool” or the quote on quote “Fuckable” category. I want my fashion to signify that I know what I am doing, and also like oh hey fyi by the way super casual I have a good body, which is a much more difficult task.
Men’s fashion doesn’t have to deal with this. The boys who are into men’s fashion aren’t competing with half naked underwear models walking around on the street. They are competing solely on the quality and rarity of their items. Women aren’t that lucky, it has to be a happy balance of sexy and stylish, because the standards are higher. And it devalues women’s clothing. Hypothetically if I posted a photo of me in my absolute dopest outfit, it would not get as many likes as a revealing photo of my body. And that makes me fucking furious. That makes me completely lose my grasp on why fashion matters. And I know that this is changing. The wide acceptance of non-gender specific clothing and non-gendered shows is a good sign that slowly the need for provocative women’s clothing may be on the decline. But I am still very much in the middle of that damn gap right now. And with that I put on an oversized Perfect Pussy t-shirt, my vans from high school and vintage light wash Levi's knowing that low key I look amazing and low key nobody will notice.