Almost every time I’ve been forced into a dress, I’ve thought, “I wish this dress had pockets – where am I going to stash my lipstick, my Kindle, and a pen and some paper?” My life is not one that requires me to wear a dress with any frequency, a fact for which I am quite grateful, but dresses are still a topic I can’t help but want to explore. I seem them online, on people, in pictures, and envy them. Each dress has so much personality and can convey personality, sometimes more so than any other article of clothing. I find dresses interesting because, in the right picture, or moment, or memory, they convey glimpses of growing up, becoming a woman, and the events that shaped me on my way to adulthood.
Not only is wishing for a dress to have pockets a universal desire in the dress-wearing community, but the act of dressing up itself is a visible marker for adulthood. The chance to change from frilly frocks to sleek evening gowns provides a sense of maturity the way few other clothing items can. Sometimes it’s hard to bear leaving some markers of childhood behind, and the ability to stash trinkets and distractions like a phone or a book into my pocket provides that. I’ve had an admittedly fraught relationship with dresses, starting from when I was a tomboy who would rather play tackle football with my brother than take a dance class. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the difference between feminism and femininity. Now, years later, I can wear a dress and feel comfortable because donning a dress doesn’t mean committing to being any one kind of woman.
Feeling comfortable in my own skin is a recurring theme for me, and expressing myself through my clothing choices is the most obvious way to process that battle. I’ve never desired to look like a model or have clothes that were in-season, but I’ve wanted to dress to express myself. It’s taken a lot of introspection to understand what image I want to project to the world because appearance is so often tied to identity. I carry this struggle with me as I write—how characters perceive themselves, how the world may perceive them, and how they act to change or enforce those beliefs.
At times I’ve struggled to figure out the image I want to project into the world. I grew up playing with the boys on my street, making mischief. I grew up dreading wearing dresses for fear of being mocked by my friends and hating that it was more difficult to run and play. So many milestone events in my life have been ones for which I’ve been forced into a dress, even when I wasn’t comfortable. Doing things, being put in situations that aren’t comfortable, is relatable, even if wearing dresses isn’t.
When I dig deep inside myself to question why I spent my adolescence hating dresses so fervently, I come up with a few answers: because they made me feel like an imposter; because I worried that they wouldn’t flatter me (either physically or personality-wise); because I wanted to run or flop on the couch with my legs spread without a thought to modesty; because I hated the way my legs chafed together on hot, sticky summer days. Now, with the ability to purchase my own wardrobe, armed with a stick of deodorant (will cure that chafing like whoa, trust me), I’m glad that I have fought this battle. I wouldn’t be nearly as self-aware if I hadn’t ever had to stop and consider this dilemma I faced for every milestone in life.
This struggle led me to pause and ask myself, “Why do I hate this?” A question I’ve found that will offer insight, no matter the topic. So yes, I do wish this dress had pockets, but my purse can hold more stuff, anyway.