Transition, As Told By My Closet
Every time I come home for holidays or extended visits I brace myself for the perpetually overwhelming project of cleaning out my closet. No matter how many times I Marie Kondo my embarrassingly over-sized closet, I am somehow always left with the same amount of clothing and accessories I started with. I am aware that the fashion industry is one of the largest waste-producing industries in the world and this fact often causes me to feel shame. Even though over 50% of my closet is now thrift or hand-me-down/up/over, I still try to live by my commitment to simple living.
In attempt to make a permanent change, I decided to Google "how to have a minimalist closet". After about 10 minutes of glancing between a YouTube tutorial and multiple piles of clothes on my floor, I realized that a 30 piece closet of only "basics" was never going to be my thing. Four to five hours of sorting clothes in categories and piles later, I slimmed my closet down by about 40%, non inclusive of my "maybe" pile that I will continue to contemplate throughout the coming weeks.
After all was said and done, I took one last look at the surviving pieces of the purge and I chuckled to myself, thinking, "Man, you can really tell that I am going through a transition right now. This closet has 50,000 aesthetics happening at once!" I've always experimented with style, especially in my foundational teenage years when I bounced between hyper-feminine and student athlete. But recently I've felt very empowered by more butch/tomboy looks. I put on a cutoff and suddenly I can take on the world. Over the years as I've embraced my queerest and truest self, the more I find dresses and heels and pearls consistently in giveaway piles. This being said, I sometimes find superpowers in wearing purple lipstick. Working through conventional binaries, I've realized that I could never have a minimalist closet because I enjoy expressing so many different parts of myself.
I am a young queer coming into styles and aesthetics that make me feel empowered, unique, and sexy. But I am hesitant to leave older pieces and items behind because these expressions were so integral to my self-discovery. While I haven't quite resolved my closet issue, I decided to put together a little DIY photo shoot demonstrating how the spectrum of expression present in my closet represents the transition in my personal life.
I know people who have, and probably always will, keep a consistent and steady style. Sometimes this is due to strict professional wardrobe requirements, but sometimes this is because people have their personal style down to an exact art. I like trying ideas, personalities, and expressions on for a stroll around the block. I am rarely consistent and labels confuse me. My interests, activities, and fascinations are constantly changing, shifting, and evolving. As you will see below, this closet not only represents a highly integrated Aquarius, but a person who is in the messy middle* of who she was and who she is becoming.
The following content consists of 12 looks in my current closet. Although I haven't gone through clear-cut phases, I tried to order them somewhat chronologically, ending with where I see my style headed in the future. As a fun extra, I decided to strike a pose that represents the outfit. So enjoy watching me figure out what to with my limbs as I try to capture the essence of each awkward phase.
As an aside, I apologize for the poor quality and random piles of jewelry in the background , but alas, I can only work with what I got.
Outfit/phase 1: The Midwestern Heteronormative Wedding
This muted mustard yellow formal dress is perfect for professional engagements, church, and generalized classy events.
This Emily is traveling back to her home town for a super-straight wedding where she knows she'll have to keep quiet and answer the dreaded question "so what have you been up to?" over a cocktail hour with a bunch of strangers. Even though she's super supportive of her friends she's sitting in church ready to intellectually pounce at every Scripture that's ever caused her deeply rooted stress and crises. But no one really gets it so she decides to contemplate how all of the bridesmaids have such a perfect black eyeliner wing (seriously, how do they do that?). She also knows that if she doesn't wear this she'll probably be talked about in the local grocery stores and honestly doesn't want to deal with the drama.
While the dress and nude pumps are cute, it definitely represents a much less self-actualized Emily.
Outfit/phase 2: Barefoot Sun Babe
This Emily sits barefoot on her dorm lawn and plays guitar to passersby until a friend comes along and engages in impromptu philosophical life discussions. She's carefree and probably procrastinating.
This skirt is actually the remnants of a dress I got in India, but I had to cut the top off once my chest outgrew the fabric. I had to whip this combo back out when I lived in Tucson, since it was one of the few outfits that was remotely work-appropriate for 110 degree weather.
Outfit/phase 3: Modern Interview Barbie
What makes this look a bit more fresh than the classic slacks and button up is the subtle pink pant and the summer blazer. However, these two factors don't distract from the fact that I'm clearly going to an interview for a job with some company I feel is ethically mediocre but I nonetheless go because I fall somewhere between over and under-qualified for every other job and I need at least one paycheck to pay off the outfit I just bought for your exclusive all day interview and luncheon with the board.
Outfit/phase 4: Sensual High Femme
Similar, but different to wedding femme. Even though the skirt is from Old Navy and the top was $5 on a sale rack, I have utilized my infamous long skirt/crop top aesthetic to accentuate my curves. I wore this look once for a New Years party. Even though I hardly wear these pieces together, I enjoy keeping it around in hopes that I get invited to a non-professional adult cocktail party. But alas, this look isn't an every day reality for me and climbing the capitalist ladder isn't really my thing.
This Emily would probably try to impress you with her book knowledge and casual theoretical name-dropping. This being said, if you want to invite her to a fancy art gallery opening she'd show up with a clutch full of mints, ready to work the room.
Outfit/phase 5: Out in the Elements, pt. 1
Despite the title's implication that this look is solely for the outdoors, I went through a period where an assemblage of this was worn pretty much every day. I loved the mix-matched colors and simple black legging. But what I loved most were the yellow rain boots I bought after being inspired by an ex-crush.
This Emily is over-involved in hippie Christian groups because she's equally intrigued and skeptical. She loves diving deeper into nature spirituality with new friends and she avoids any personal questions that aren't related to the four retreats she happens to be leading.
Outfit/phase 6: U Kno I Love a London Boi
I believe I acquired all of these items (except the purse) during my many European travels. Even though it isn't American preppy, it carries a British prep and pomp to it that is a bit classier and more uniform than what I feel actually suits me. The pants continue to be a trend in England. But I suppose its more of a fad than an expression. The necklace and crop turtle neck are staples across the board and I incorporate them into every style on a weekly basis.
This Emily feels validated when her old co-workers wish her luck in moving to England, saying "go be that super smart and cute English professor we know you are!" (even though teaching was never the end-all-be-all goal).
Outfit/phase 7: Out in the Elements, pt. 2
This requires a pt. 2 because half of my closet is camping gear. At one point in my life, I regularly used all of the stuff I currently own (sleeping bag, mat, crazy creek, head lamp, bungees, etc). Since graduating from undergrad and moving from city to city, a lot of it comes with me but remains unused.
This Emily is a fan of the Pacific Northwest and keeps her Eno in her car at all times. She still loves life chats but she can't handle more than 60 minutes of screen time a day and she goes through periods of having no social media. She also becomes a vegetarian for awhile.
Outfit/phase 8: My Relatives Called Me Yoko Ono Growing Up
(also referred to as overrated artist hipster but hopefully has some talent look)
This look surprisingly makes me really happy. The frames and the kimono are predictable, but I love the character of the purple pants and the weirdness of the clogs. The whole thing is actually quite practical, especially if you're on your feet throughout the day.
This Emily has 30 notebooks of songs written but never finished. She also shows up to no-name live music events alone and brings her tiny notebook along to pretend to write as a cover so that no one questions her people watching.
Outfit/phase 9: Club Look If I Went to Clubs, But Maybe a Black Lip will Help Me Pickup Interesting Friends/Lovers
( more commonly recognized as my 24th birthday outfit that I couldn't actually flaunt because I got sick and had to go home early)
I have a love/hate relationship with these pants. They are bold and bracing, but they really don't go with much. Here we see the a black shirt paired with a gold chain again, but used to give off a darker edge to British street style. Nothing about this really reflects my inmost personality, other than I love see through mesh and black lipstick. I keep it around for the occasional first date and underground concert. It's more of a wannabe look than anything else.
This Emily will probably convince you that I listen to bands you and I have never heard of, but regardless, by the end of the conversation we'll be talking about mental health and the future of humanity and we will probably both leave a little sad.
Outfit/phase 10: An Everyday Glimpse
This probably best represents what I wear on a casual every day basis. It's little quirky but still tied together with basics. It makes me feel like I should be a lackadaisical painter on a coast somewhere (similar to Frankie from Grace and Frankie). Though old, this pink corduroy comes with me EVERYWHERE and I would incorporate it into every outfit if I could.
This Emily has two hour phone calls with friends regularly and goes to metro-parks to sit in the grass and watercolor. She also has a secret love for learning French and Chinese and she hopes to one day teach in a Gender and Sexuality Studies department.
[the following two looks are looks I'm slowly embracing and learning to love on myself]
Outfit/phase 11: Hayley Kiyoko Inspired Butchness
Y'all I really love how this whole ensemble makes me feel. I used to wear it to my street dancing classes whilst in Leeds and it made me feel on FIRE. Not only did I pull my signature cut crop on this white Beatles shirt, but I also pulled a fan girl and cut/re-sowed my jean jacket after the release of "Gravel to Tempo". I found the necklace at a thrift store in Leeds and I got the Pride laces for freeeee. The layered hoodie and jacket look is classic and warm. It was definitely a staple during cold Tucson evenings and mild English school days.
This Emily has recommitted herself to her love of dancing and physical exercise. She remembers that she was once an athlete and tries cycling again despite personal trauma with bike accidents.
She will also be learning all the choreo for " I Wish" and/or "Curious" so stay tuned.
Outfit/phase 12: Wait, I Can Be the Pursuer?
(warning: major self-love alert)
This Emily realizes that she can in fact ask people on dates AND cook her own meals AND manage her life AND make new friends. This is the Emily that keeps getting "Shane" in "Which L Word Character Are You" Buzzfeed quizzes and she's definitely not mad about it.
Oof, watch out world. I don't think I realized how truly sexy I could feel until I started wearing cut offs like the "Arizona Bare Desert" tee and jacket shown above. What you can't see are the black jeans, copper tinted belt buckle, and brown/grey boots that tie the whole getup together. But honestly this raw moment is so good I couldn't resist including it. I was really feelin myself as I let an Eagles playlist drum on in the background.
So, as you can see, there are a variety of colors, crops, and styles happening in my shifting closet. As I move through this space of transition and uncertainty, I find myself straddling many different phases, versions, and recreations of myself. If my closet is telling me anything, it's telling me to celebrate all of the Emilys its been honored to love and express, but its challenging all of the Emilys who want to transition into new territory.
On a fish 'n' chips run with a friend I once passed a mural that read "I like who I've been, but I love who I'm becoming." My closet is a colorful celebration of the in-between. And for now, I'm totally okay with that.
* "messy middle" is borrowed from Brene Brown's Rising Strong