I recently, very recently, came to the realisation that my change in style has come from a mixture of things, comfort and practicality included, but the most interesting realisation I had was that I’ve stopped wearing short skirts/dresses/low cut tops for the exact same reason that I used to love wearing them.
For those who haven’t been following my style evolution (so, everyone but me!), over the past few years I have moved from living in mostly revealing, ‘girly,’ clothes, to more casual, comfortable ones. I love my look now, I feel super comfy and happy in jeans, shirts & Sketchers, but on occasion I still fancy wearing clothes I wore years ago. Only now I feel uncomfortable wearing those clothes.
Turns out that I feel uncomfortable in those clothes because of the inappropriate attention (from men) that I’ve received when I’ve worn those clothes. By that, I mean that the attention I get makes me want to crawl out of my skin and hide in a cave. Which then made me realise that as a teen/early 20s that was actually the reason I wore those clothes; for male attention, because that was how I made myself feel validated.
Back then, in my younger years, my identity was almost entirely as a sexual object. My self-esteem and self-confidence were so low, and I had so little belief in, or love for, myself, that I felt that was all I was worth. That if I wasn’t sexually desirable then I was nothing. I had nothing else to offer. In my mind I wasn’t smart enough, funny enough, sporty enough, or really anything enough, to deserve anything, least of all love or affection.
My style reflected that need for external validation. It was a cry for someone to notice me, to make a comment. It didn’t have to be a nice comment, I just needed to be seen, to prove to myself that I existed.
And now, at 29, I want to give my younger self a hug, and tell her that she is worth more than that. That I am a whole human being, and that I have so many other things to offer the world, and even if I didn’t, I don’t have to be sexually appealing as some sort of payment for taking up space in the world. I have a right to be here, to exist, just like anyone else, and I don’t have to ‘earn’ that right by pleasing other people (read: men). I want to hold her and help her realise that she doesn’t have to fit in a box to be accepted. That she can be true to all of the things that she is, as messy as that may be, and the right people will still stand by her.
Thankfully, at the moment, when I look back at those younger years, I no longer feel ashamed of my behaviour. I wish I hadn’t done a lot, if not most, of the things I did, but I realise why I did it. I understand that it was out of a desperation for affection and attention. Now, instead of feeling shame, I wish I could go back and talk to her, teenage me. I wish I could build her confidence, and give her the love she so desperately needed, so that she didn’t feel that her worth was entirely measured by how much men wanted to sleep with her.
And now? Well, now I wish that I had enough confidence to tell anyone making sexual comments because I’m wearing a short shirt, or other ‘slutty’ clothing, where to stick it. I wish that instead of feeling my skin crawl, feeling sick & disgusting, and wanting to change immediately into something baggy and totally covering, I felt strong enough to point out that I’m not a sex object. That I’m not dressed for their pleasure. That their lecherous look & inappropriate comment are neither invited, nor welcome. Essentially, I wish I was brave enough to wear what I want, because I want to.
But I don’t, and I won’t, at least not right now, because other people’s judgments continue to define & control me, just in different ways now.