Today is Christmas Eve. Last night I had a dream in which I was strolling through a luxury department store in a grand shopping mall, say, Nordstrom or Neiman’s. A sharp-dressed stylist suddenly appeared in front of me. He pointed at me and said, “You’re wearing Marchesa. You must be rich.” As I recount this dream, I’m struck by the fact that I dreamt of a designer who exists, but who I’ve not thought much about. The name Marchesa has never been a name I’ve uttered, and Marchesa’s designs are none that I’ve spent any amount of time thinking about. The sharp-dressed man ushered me away to a different designer’s displays and collections. He told me the name of the designer I was to dress myself in quickly, but it’s not a name that remained once I awoke. It’s occurred to me now that I’ve left out a detail. In the dream, I am not aware of what I’m wearing until he points his finger at me, in the way that people who perceive themselves as important and fancy, do. Suddenly, I look down at myself, and I see that I’m adorned in expensive clothes, clothes I’d never really desire to claim, or to wear. I’m also aware of the impracticality of the top that I’m wearing, with short straps that rest off the shoulder, and that the top drapes low across my chest. Periodically I have to hoist the top up so that it doesn’t expose my breasts, and each time I do, I wonder if I’ve embarrassed myself to such an extent that the sharp-dressed man won’t deign to dress me in his clothes anymore. There’s another thought that plagues me throughout the dream. That he only chooses me because I look like I am a person of money. What if he finds out that I’m not a person of money, what then? As I agonize over this possibility, I look down at the floor, and it is only then that I notice that I’m wearing bright orange sneakers, sneakers that I’m surprised haven’t given me away yet. I am in the middle of hair and makeup when I wake, and I have no real awareness of what the sharp-dressed man ends up choosing for me to wear. In the afternoon after the dream, I type Marchesa into the search box on Google, and see nothing that resembles what I remember in the dream. Marchesa website is filled to the brim with delicate dresses cluttered with rose petals. In the dream, I am most definitely wearing separates that are embroidered with silver sequins and sheer material. What sits with me the most about the dream, though, is the feeling of being found out, how extraordinary I feel to be chosen, how inevitable I feel to be discovered a fraud, and pushed to the side. It occurs to me, then, not only that this is the tension I always feels when I wear anything fancy—sparkly shoes, seersucker bow ties, exquisite gowns—but how similarly I feel when it comes to holiday and the concept of home. How hard it is to feel that I am one with home, and yet how hard it is to not try to claim it for myself, anyway.
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I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend the other day, about the types we decide we are, and what we dress those types with. Based on what we believe ourselves to be, or what others convince us we are, or whatever outside comes closest to matching what’s inside us. I remember a dress I wore when I was young, that I adored because I could twirl in it again and again. I was devastated when I was told to change at the end of the day, but mostly because of the movement we—the body and the dress—could make together. But I was also mostly raised by a single father, and so I also longed for the day when I could adore myself with the menswear accessories. When I wear makeup, I think less of it as legitimizing myself as feminine as I do something I’d wear on stage, a costume, a playful experiment with colors and shine. Makeup is as much a suit of armor as a tailored jacket. Dandyism is also where it’s at. @narsissist @fluevog @fentybeauty @ciatelondon @beautiesltd @goorinbros #whendragisateachingmoment #forstudentandteacher
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Not gonna lie. I was pretty excited about my #clownchic on this day, so when I, in clownery fashion, spilled tea on my shirt I was excited, like a five year old, to wear to tap class before walking in to teach my first class, I was frustrated by my own imperfect coordination. But that seemed to only prove what bodies are – fallible and graceful all at once. I got to a sink to rectify the tea stain just in time to resolve it and for it to dry! before embarrassing myself in front of my students (or perhaps, my teacher, that evening). So here’s the documentation throughout the day, finished with some before and after shots of the watermark on my shirt. Astaire on the front, and Kelly, not pictured, on the back. An extra bonus: taking some self portraits in front of the barber shop I won’t tag because of its implied masculinism. But at least I may have shook things up for them for at least a minute or two, taking up space in their see through glass. #clownchic #baesjacket #ourshoeswebothown #ruffles #thebodyisimperfect #butiwouldnthaveitanyotherway
I suppose the easiest way to begin is to say that I didn’t always think of clothing as something I could construct meaning out of, or that I could think of my body as a vessel that said something specifically about the body which I dressed as I made my way out into the world.
That brings us to the first point, which is the point of being twinned.
What I mean to say is that because I was twinned, because I was a body that was doubled in the world, at least, that is how I was seen, how I was handled, how clothes to be placed on my body were approached with me, then that meant that I didn’t really think too much about the role clothes played in individuating the self.
Not at first, anyway.
I was twinned, which meant that I was dressed. Almost always identically. There were times, I suppose, in which one of us wore one color and the other of us wore another color. There were times in which we fought over who would wear what version of the same outfit. Then there were times in which my father bought two versions of the same ensemble and held each version in each hand behind his back. We were asked to pick a hand, and then we were dictated to that we were not allowed to fight, because it had been democratic. There were times my twin insisted I was wearing hers of the same shoes. At which point my father commanded that we write our initials into the bottoms of the insides of the shoes so there would again be nothing to fight over.
Why was it we always wanted what the other had, even when it was the same? This is an unanswerable question, no matter at which stage of life the twin asks it.
But, to get back to it. I spent a good amount of time being dressed the same. And then I spent a good amount of time accidentally dressing in the same clothes as my twin in the next room. (She always made me change before it was time to leave for school.) And then I spent a good amount of time wearing colors that would help me recede into the background, to vanish, as it were, from scrutiny. And then, something changed.
That something happened in graduate school, when a poet I was working with wrote something to me in one of her first letters of our semester working together. She said that it made sense that I would gravitate to imagery, because if everyone sees my twin and I the same, then how we saw the world would be the thing that differentiated us.
But, this did something to me beyond the role imagery played in my writing life, and why.
This made me perceive of my body as a different kind of vessel, as one in which I could assume a different kind of individuality, a word that remains mysterious and hard to reach. And yet. Through clothing I try to queer myself, to change the narrative, to de-twin my twinned body. More of this will be said soon enough. But for now, let’s let it stand as a beginning to this exploration of the curated body, of the body as an object to be adorned and brought out into the world.