Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm giving up on pants! A fashion rant

balancing a cooking pot on my head in work clothes
Random acts of silliness in work clothes
I'll start out by saying I'm not the most fashionable person in the world.  I've always been more of a function and fit over fashion person, but I've found myself being more and more drawn to clothing as a means of expression as my spine issues have increased.  While fashion has always intrigued me, from watching America's Next Top Model and Project Runway to wanting to be a fashion designer when I was a kid, fashion has been something that I've always admired but never actually pursued.  In regards to my current surge of fashion-related thinking, I feel like it's more of a control thing than any real attempt to be fashion-forward, but it's really gotten me thinking about several intersections of my body, clothing, and the fashion industry.

So the other day I'm limping with my awesome flame cane over to the student union on my lunch break, slightly cursing the cute but comfy skirt I decided to wear because the swish of it was whipping against my cane.  It makes me think of an article I read on xoJane.com about shoes, skirts, and wheelchair use, and how I've joked that I will get some wild heels to wear when I'm wheeling (I don't actually expect this to happen, but it's fun to talk about).  It also got me thinking about the different reactions I get wearing different things while using different adaptive equipment.  There's some major fatphobia with fasion to begin with, so if I'm having a casual day or if I'm on my way to the gym, people read my body as a lazy fat person.  With a cane, I'm the lazy fat person that's disabled because of my fat.  If I'm on wheels, I'm the lazy fat person that's so lazy that I won't even walk or that I'm potentially too fat to walk.  As Sarah Eyre, another writer at xoJane, points out, adaptive equipment can really let you know who is worth your time and who isn't...and that goes double for bodies that are fat AND disabled.

So I keep thinking about skirts.  As a sporty person, skirts haven't been a huge part of my personal wardrobe, but I'm finding that they fit my body shape with less frustration than pants (Lane Bryant, I'm giving you the hairy eyeball right now...because your Right Fit pants used to fit me perfectly, then got redesigned to something just awful.  Folks with more than a ten inch difference between waist & hips need love & pants too!).  I've found comfy jersey skirts because of a modest dressing community on LiveJournal (if GetYourSkirtOn ever is back in business, I want more of their skirts!), thick twirly skirts from Champion, and thin foldover skirts from Old Navy.  I keep thinking about the excerpt from Two Whole Cakes that I read in Bitch Magazine about skirts and fatness.

Fashion can be a radical statement of subjectivity.

Dressing my body in a way that feels comfortable is a radical act.  "Feels comfortable" can mean "makes me feel disco ball fabulous."  It can mean "covers me where I want to be covered (or conversely, is bare where I want to be bare).  It can mean "doesn't get stuck in my wheel spokes" (whether that's a wheelchair or a bicycle).  It can mean "functions in whatever way I need/want it to function" and that can be a physical sensation, a mental acknowledgement, or a social engagement.  It can be really hard when our bodies don't conform to what the fashion industry sees as important, whether that's a huge waist-to-hip ratio on a short fat woman or that butt pockets for a lot of wheelchair users are generally unhelpful.

Me in 2004 dressed as the Easter Bunny for adults of drinking age
Easter 2004, I'm the Easter Bunny for grown-ups

Fashion can be whatever we want it to be, or whatever we don't want it to be.  Sometimes our bodies don't fit into size charts (most of us differ from the fit models!).  If I was more crafty, or had more time to actually teach myself to sew properly, I would probably make my own clothes like Lesley Kinzel talks about with her skirts in grad school.

So I'm giving up on pants.  Between my waist-to-hip ratio and my part-time wheelchair use, I can't seem to find pants that remotely work for me, either in fit or comfort-level, unless there's a drawstring waist involved....and I've never seen work-appropriate drawstring pants before.  I'm going to gather up some summer weight capri leggings and some breezy skirts that hopefully don't whip against my cane or get caught in wheel spokes, and try to find a way to incorporate them in my sporty and somewhat androgynous fashion sense.  Another day, another adventure...

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