It’s something of a joke among those who live in close quarters with me that I tend to dress in uniforms. This probably comes from the same part of me that can spend a month watching 6 seasons of a foreign TV show, twice, without tiring of it basically being the same show each week. I am comfortable with routine.
The most recent iteration of the uniform was a blazer, a scoop neck t-shirt, jeggings, red shoes, and a large scarf. Because all my shoes are red and all of my t-shirts are the same thing in different colors, this allowed for a variety of outfits with pretty much no effort. Plus, I always had a built-in blanket for cold classrooms. It was a win win.
Recently, however, I’ve moved away from the blazer-scarf-jeggings power look. I got tired of having a sweaty neck all of the time.
Without meaning to, I have settled in to a new uniform. For the past three days (I really wish I was exaggerating for effect, here) I have worn one of my two pairs of skinny jeans, one of the same scoop neck tees, and a tweed jacket that looks like a stole it off a very narrow-shouldered male archaeologist. The jacket is reversible, so if I tire of the tweed* I can revisit my elementary school uniform and wear some khaki instead.
The uniform, combined with my short hair and a non-expression that I am told makes me look very angry, tends to make me look sort of like a teenaged boy. I think that part of it is me making myself as unnoticeable as possible using the things over which I have control over for when I go to Dakar. I can’t control being white and American, but I can confine myself to earth tones with the best of them.
But I think even without the trip abroad, I’d be moving in that same direction. There was a period in high school where my wardrobe was hyperfeminine, as was my hair—there were a lot of sundresses and pincurls and pencil skirts. Without me noticing, my wardrobe has shifted from red into blue into grey and brown over the last semester.
I spent so much of this year being anxious whenever I spoke in class and hoping that I would be sort of ignored. Of course, I still raised my hand in class and pretty much never shut up**, but I felt bad when I did. It was a really weird combination of feelings and impulses, and I think that the move into more muted colors and more androgynous cuts of clothing had something to do with it.
But, even as my clothes become less colorful, I am struck by how I feel when I’m wearing them. When I’m channeling Agyness Deyn with some combat boots and the punker jacket, I feel powerful in a way that sundresses and heels didn’t necessarily make me feel. It’s superficial, but there’s something to be said for the knowledge that you could kick some ass in your clothing.
The weather now is similar to what the weather will be when I go abroad. All signs point to me keeping more or less this uniform while I’m there. I’m interested to see whether my feelings about power and clothing stay the same while I’m traveling. I suspect that they will not.
This got to be much more serious than I intended. Because what I originally wanted to share about the jacket that makes up the main part of the new uniform is that it’s reversible, it’s tweed, and it cost me $6.95.
I am the queen of thrift stores.
* I will not tire of the tweed.
** I thirst for external approval like a vampire for blood. Blame magnet school.