Trans and Queer Fashion

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Mainstream fashion is too often tailored to straight and cis women and men. Clothing is cut differently and gendered based on generalized body shapes of men and women. But what does this mean for trans people? For the transgender community, dressing for fashion often has a different meaning. Every choice a non-cis person makes in terms of clothing affects how the world views them. One “mistake” in an outfit choice could get you misgendered or harassed. Trans people have a much higher standard on their beauty than cis people do. On top of looking nice and accentuating certain parts of their body, they often need to dress to pass.

Queer fashion constantly pushes the boundaries of the binary. This goes for both trans and nonbinary people as well as those who identify with other parts of the LGBTQ+ community (such as gay or bisexual).

Being trans, Dimitrie Flores, a sophomore Visual Media Arts major, uses he series or they series pronouns and presents in a very androgynous, masculine way. “Stereotypically queer” is how he describes his own fashion sense. “It’s just a bunch of different aesthetics”. Black clothes, denim and leather jackets, button ups, docs, piercings, and tattoos make up Flores’ wardrobe.

Flores has always cared about his fashion and has always had a unique look. Growing up,  Flores’ parents dressed him so he did not have much choice in his wardrobe. Throughout middle school he gravitated toward more masculine styles and urged his mother for short hair.

Now, while still wearing more stereotypical “masculine” clothing, Flores focusses on clothes that make him the most comfortable being who he is. Hearing positive comments about his look from strangers on the street reaffirms his identity as genderqueer and “transmasculine”.   How others view him used to have a great impact on what he wore and how he dressed. Occasionally he is unhappy with the way clothing fits on him. Dimitrie said he is very picky about the way that he presents himself.

With all of this in mind, the concept of passing comes into play. Gender expression and gender identity are separate. Someone who identifies as a gender identity other than cis does not have to prove their gender identity through their expression. Flores defines “passing” as how he wants to present himself. He wants people to get an androgynous or masculine vibe from him and for him this is “passing”. Other members of the queer community define it in different ways that they validate their gender.

In no way is every queer person’s experience with fashion the same. In fact, many use fashion as a way of expressing their personal identity which lends itself to unique styles. Kevin Milton, a senior Journalism student, describes his own fashion as “messy cute chic” or “random messy posh”. Based in colors and patterns, Milton matches two (of the many) colors in his outfit to create a dynamic look.

When Milton was growing up his dad dressed him in Timberland boots, long shirts, and big pants. There was no flexibility in what he could wear. Milton always felt more feminine than the boys he grew up with. He was less athletic and smaller in stature so his curated wardrobe often looked like it belonged to someone else. Boxed into this idea of what others wanted him to dress like, Milton felt that he needed to fit everyone else’s ideas of what he must be. Coming out, at the age of 19, allowed his fashion to simultaneously flourish as he did.

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Focussing on vibrant, bright colors, Milton feels they reflect his identity and loud personality. “If I could assign colors to the word queer it would be all of them.” When asked what he wanted people to think when they saw him on the street, he told me that he wanted to appear confident in who he is. The more people have complimented him, the more he has felt comfortable with different style choices such as adding interesting scarves and necklaces to his unique colorful looks.

He embraced and furthered his own fashion sense when he came to college, especially after he transferring to Emerson. When he told the world he was gay, his fashion sense enhanced and he felt more confident in his ability to express himself. Besides writing and journalism, fashion is the most important way that he expresses himself. “I am more Kevin now,” he said on growing into who he is in college.

Illustration by: Francisco Guglielmino