Sometimes, we stop wearing things, or refrain from wearing them in the first place.
Once upon a time, I was rather into things that visually referenced the Subcontinent. I loved the rich embroidery, vibrant colors, shimmering fabrics, paisley prints, and so on. It was a way to connect to the culture that, during my upbringing, was all too often ignored or even denigrated in favor of religion. I got excited when my local Kohl’s started carrying mojari-style flats since the ones made in the Subcontinent and sold in Little India never fit my 9.5W feet.
In high school, I embraced the peasant/”boho” blouses and skirts of my high school decade, despite the protests of my mother, who claimed that they were poorly-stitched and would come apart at the seams (she was right, but would fix them for me anyway). Later, as a college freshman, I started wearing kurtis and jeans almost exclusively as they were cool, breathable, cute, and long enough to keep my family off my back.
After I left Islam, I slowly phased out of wearing anything that even slightly referenced my heritage’s aesthetic. This was partly due to my desire to divorce myself from the clothing style I was pressured into due to my religious beliefs. It was also due to my desire to avoid all forms of othering in my new life. When I wore hijab, there was no way I could avoid being ethnically pigeonholed in some way or other. Wearing the headscarf with my Subcontinental-style duds (and, later, my tiny diamond nose stud) was a way to signal to people that I was Desi, not Arab. Wearing that same sort of apparel sans headscarf made me look like I was fresh off the boat and people’s treatment reflected that, so I stopped. Without the kurtis, I read as ethnically ambivalent (I think I’ve been mistaken for a member almost every ethnicity under the sun at this point).
I’m not proud of what I did, but damned if it didn’t get people to treat me closer to how I’d prefer to be treated.
Race isn’t the only *ism-type thing that leads to people to conclude that they ought to stop wearing certain types of clothing. Age plays a role for many people. Ingrid, Greta Christina‘s lovely wife, once told me that, a while back, she realized that she didn’t convey what she wanted via a certain look she used to favor. She peered at her black-lace-swaddled reflection in the mirror and thought that she had started to look like someone’s grandmother going to a funeral rather than edgy or goth-y. I don’t think anyone’s too old for goth, let alone black lace, but it’s not as if my personal views dictate how society works.
Is there anything you won’t wear or have stopped wearing due to fear of judgment or stereotypes?
Image by Tara Grasser, used with permission.