my relationship with clothing as a nonbinary person

I have always loved dresses, bows, lace and pink. That was perfectly fine growing up, until I started to question that part of me that wasn't exactly feminine…

As a teen, I started to experiment with gender. I knew I probably wasn't exactly a girl, so I tried out boy.

This involved trying on more masculine clothes. Plain t shirt, flannel button up, jeans, or maybe a pair of pants that I wore for work that I found in the men's section. I put my hair up in a hat and removed my glasses (they had detailing that was only found in the 'women's' section). I tried this a few times and found that presenting as a boy did not feel wrong. It acknowledged a part of me I hadn't really presented before. However, it didn't leave space for everything else I loved to wear.

Around this time I had started dressing in a more bohemian style (when I wasn't wearing the dreaded school dress code. Uhg.) This involved a lot of long flowy skirts, floral printed t-shirts and tank tops, and lots of earth tones. I was still wearing bras and form fitting shirts.

Oh, and can't neglect the fact that I was also wearing skinny jeans and black graphic tees. And beanies. I was a wanna-be-emo. And I appreciate that for what it was.

When I discovered the bohemian style, I felt really good because I had never dressed in a way that expressed true meaning to me before. This style came with it an appreciation for nature, peace, freedom, and a sense of adventurous spirit. Being that I'm also a pagan and had just figured that out within the last couple years, I found that it could bring together my witchy and earth loving vibes within my wardrobe.

I was at a point where I wanted to find that one style that just 'fit' me and I could revolve my entire wardrobe around that and be comfortable. A signature style, if you will. This felt like it could be it.

Though the vibe and philosophy of the style suited me well, looking back I can see that my interpretation of the style was very feminine, and didn’t allow much space for different gender presentations.

When I moved out of my parents house in 2016, I immediately changed a few things. I stopped shaving any body hair, I stopped shampooing, and I stopped wearing a bra.

My boobs are between an A and a B and they don't often fall in that 'aesthetic' form, so I started gravitating toward looser shirts.

As I worked through my journey to understanding and accepting my gender, I did go through needing to visually balance my gender expression. Because I physically appeared as a woman, I struggled to wear anything too feminine, and instead chose more masculine things in attempt to appear more androgynous. This also included reducing the appearance of some of my more feminine features- I tended to keep my hair short and continued to wear loose clothing to conceal my body shape. Additionally, I discontinued the use of what minimal makeup I had been using before. (The extent of my makeup routine was occasional eyeliner/shadow, and I did also quit due to the environmental impact of the stuff I had. Someday I’d like to try eyeliner again, but I’m planning to get it from Clean Faced Cosmetics.)

It was a long internal process but I came to the conclusion that no matter how I dressed, people would still read me as a woman, so there wasn't a point in changing how I dressed just for that. If I felt like presenting masculine at a given moment, I could. If I wanted to wear a pink dress and heels, I could do that, too. Either way, nobody was going to see me for who I was, but I would know who I am. Either way, I'm still nonbinary.

I developed an interest in punk fashion, not only because I find it aesthetically pleasing, but also because it's so vast and doesn't really fit in a box. There are lots of kinds of punk. And you can literally write out exactly what you want to say on your clothing.

I started by thrifting an old pleather jacket to punk. I removed the lining and made a removable one with a long sleeve t-shirt and a lot of safety pins. I embroidered witchy things and the words "Fuck Plastic." And then I added my pride flags. It's always meant to be a work in progress, which I also really appreciate. My jacket became a kind of armor for me. No matter what I was wearing, I could put on this jacket and it would be punk, and it would represent my identity and values and everything. It made me feel safe and it made me feel authentic, even when I was being shy and quiet.

I started T (testosterone) in Feb 2020 and since then have felt a shift where I don't really need to balance my expression. Even though I still am read as female, I know that it won't be that way forever. And I can feel and see the small changes that balance it out for me, even if nobody else notices.

I'm constantly seeking out to learn more about the history of punk fashion, and exploring what being punk means to me in 2020, as a nonbinary person.

Here's what I have so far:

In its origin, punk fashion is meant to stand out or go against the expectations of 'polite society.'

Wearing formal attire to the grocery store is punk. Wearing a cowboy hat with chains and safety pins is punk. A sundress and big black boots is punk. Adding my leather fanny pack to any outfit is punk. Mixing clothing from the "men's" and "women's" sections is punk. Wearing a garment I made myself is punk. Wearing all thrifted clothes is punk. Anything I want is punk because I'm punk and wearing it.

It's given me this extra boost of confidence even if I'm not entirely sure about an outfit. Does this top really go with these shoes? Maybe not...but I like the vibe of them combined and I'm going to wear them together so it doesn't matter.

I've found that my wardrobe contains a vast amount of shirts that are at least one size "too big" for me. Part of that is because I like a comfy baggy style. But I recently got a couple of men's shirts that fit me properly and I really like how they look on me. My boobs are visible. My hips are more visible. And I'm interested to see how often I'm willing to actually show the shape of my body as my transition continues and I continue to be more and more comfortable with the natural shape of my boobs.

While I mainly identify my style as punk, I've made it into my own umbrella term in a way. It doesn't confine me to any set style. I feel extremely free to explore any and all styles of dress, whenever I want to. Yes, this means I have quite a bit of clothes... but I've come to realize that clothing is an art form that really matters to me, so what if I have an amount of clothing that could be deemed as excessive. This fluidity in expression isn’t so dissimilar from how I experience gender. Though the clothes I choose on any given day may not correlate with the gender I’m feeling, they still represent that range. Just like I’ve let go of my need for my style to fit in a box (or my closet), I’ve released my gender from the constraints of the binary.

Follow @thethriftypunk on Instagram! I'd love to hear your story, too.

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