Celebrating “Too Muchness”

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I really love collaborating with pals, especially when it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I spend much of my academic and downtime thinking about. So when my BFF Natalie came to me and suggested that we do a post on what it means to be told that you’re “too much,” I jumped at the opportunity. Natalie had been talking to her friend Hannah (who you’ll meet below) about how Hannah had started dressing up as a drag queen and LOVING IT! And she wanted to continue that conversation with Hannah, myself, and some other ladies. There are so many different “too much” narratives: your skirt is too short, your clothes are too fancy, too elaborate, too eccentric; you’re too loud, too ambitious, too self-indulgent; you feel too many feelings or too much of one feeling; you’re too feminine or too masculine;, you have too many tattoos; you’re wearing too many patterns or you’re matching too much; you’re too sensitive or too rational; too sexual or too prudish; you talk too much, too quietly, too loudly….and I could go on!

In my research, I look at the ways in which teen girls are told that they feel too many feelings in too great of an intensity, and just how damaging those narratives are. And the harm is done not just to the self, but to our relationships with others. When we internalize those judgements (something that all too easy to do), then we begin to find ourselves judging others. As Natalie mentions below, another reason she wanted to have this conversation was because she was realizing that her own self-policing was deeply connected to the conscious and unconscious ways that she was policing the bodies of others. As she astutely notes, “It’s me trying to react to patriarchy but patriarchy would also have me pitted against other women in order to divide our energies.” So I asked Natalie to invite some pals that I’d never met before to have a chat about how we can come together and celebrate our “too muchness.”

I really wanted to get this post out in time for Halloween because this is the time of year when people feel like they can embrace being “too much”: too sexy, too scary, too unclothed, too gross, too ugly, too glamorous. But I want us to push back against this “one weekend” that serves as some “get out of jail free card.” I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the narrative that this is the one time of the year that women can “dress like sluts” (to borrow the toxic language of so many of the people that I grew up around in the suburbs) and not be judged for it. Who is the one granting women this privileged night of too muchness? The answer: patriarchy. I don’t want to wait for someone to tell me that it’s okay to dress a certain way. I just want to do it. But just doing it isn’t that simple. It means confronting the harmful narratives we’ve internalized, it means being vulnerable, it means sitting with all of the anxious feelings that come up whenever we put on something that we love but feels “too [insert adjective]”. But it’s work that we can do together, by celebrating our too muchness with one another — like we do in the photos taken by the talented Hannah Zoe Davison. I so appreciated all that I learnt from the women during this convo. I hope you enjoy it too!

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I really love hats but never wear them because they feel “too much.” Also love this dress but it feels like “too much boob.” I’m trying to push past those narratives and embrace my inner Florence from Florence and the Machine.

1. Our “Too Much” Narratives

Me: What does “too much” mean to you? Did you ever have someone tell you that you were “too much” explicitly and if so, what were they commenting on? Or is it more of an insidious feeling coming from society in general or somewhere you can’t quite place? I’d love to hear some of the narratives that you’ve been confronted with.

One that I hate is feeling in the summer like my tattoos are too much. Basically every surface of my body is tattooed to some extent, so when it’s the summer you can see my thigh tattoos and my leg tattoos and my back tattoos and my feet tattoos – all the tattoos! This past summer I had two different strangers tell me that my tattoos were too much (“wow, that’s a lot of tattoos”) as though there is an acceptable amount. All I want to do in the summer is wear a crop top and some short shorts and be as naked as possible because it’s so damn hot. I feel like I can’t just go out into the world like that because I’m too visible. I just feel this sense of being on display because so many people have this attitude towards tattoos: I have a right to look at you because you chose to get tattooed. Already you’re getting so much attention because you’re a woman in the summer not wearing much clothing and then add being really tattooed to that. There are times when it just feels really uncomfortable.

Barbara: That’s definitely a feeling that I can relate to. Not in the sense of having tattoos but of summertime and having exposed skin. The fact that I’m a woman who’s chosen, after the age of 25, to wear lots of leopard print skirts… I think the other too much that I personally think about a lot is “too loud,” “too obnoxious,” “too self-indulgent”…too something. I immigrated to Canada when I was 10, so I had been socialized very differently. Part of being socialized as a Russian woman meant that I was a lot more direct and opinionated than kids liked me to be. And my sense of humour was different. I was so hungry for friendship when I came to Canada that I was also “too needy.” So on the one hand I was too direct and on the other too needy. Those were very formative experiences in my life and continue to be part of my narratives that I negotiate and balance between accepting and rejecting.

laughter

Aubyn: I’ve been thinking about this question a lot since the idea to have this night came up. I think my idea of “too much” changed over the week because I was asking myself, “What limits do I put on myself?” And it all has to do with how I think that people are perceiving me. The “too much” is defined very much by my work life and the rest of my life – which are so separate. I remember when I got this job and I went and bought khakis. I just didn’t know what to wear to be in a professional work environment. And so I was in the Gap, holding up these khakis and looking around and thinking “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” And every time I put on those pants I think, “Fuck my life.” But where I work the administrative staff are mostly older women who dress in a certain way and so I feel this weird tension between thinking that I’m not defined by my work and I’m here and have this whole other life. I actually change out of my work clothes at the end of the day and feel free. It’s been a weird world to navigate. The world of Gap khakis.

laughter

Also small acts of subversion in the workplace are really awesome. I have this tiny pin that’s someone giving the middle finger and I wear it under the collars of my shirts. And every once in a while if I find myself hunched over my computer I’ll find myself reaching up and touching it.

laughter

Hannah: Have you ever worn something that you felt was too much and been policed for it?

Aubyn: No, I’ve never been policed for it. But I feel…I think it’s what I’m internalizing… an up and down glance from colleagues at work…

Maylee: You know what, I just embrace the “too much” outfit. Always have. I think the last time I had that “over the top” moment was on my b-day when I had a moment of clarity (sober moment) and was wearing pasties with Barbie doll heads taped to my nips with wings and only wearing panties that read “Redrum.” I thought for a moment; “Hmmmm…this could be too much.” Also I was a soloist on this aka the only person pretty much naked.

 

Maylee’s Out of this World “Too Muchness” 

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Unfortunately Maylee wasn’t able to join us for the photoshoot, so she sent us these awesome photos.

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Natalie: It was interesting for me…the idea for this blog post stemmed from my conversation with Hannah about what she’s doing with her drag outfits and I realized that I’ll be putting on an outfit that is “too much” but I don’t even realize it at the time. And then as I’m standing in front of the mirror looking at myself I have these panic attack feelings. I’m not a super anxious person, but there’s this deep anxiety as soon as I put on an outfit that is “too much.” And nobody in my whole life has policed me! And yet there’s a deep-seated anxiety that I feel from just being in the world and I recognize that some parts of it are about flagging myself as queer. So I have deep anxieties about being too feminine. If I put on an outfit that “too femme,” I get freaked out or if I put on too much makeup. And then there’s the concept of “trying too hard”…

Everyone: Ohhhh yeah….

Natalie: If everything matches, which I like, I’ll switch something up to be a little less on point – because I don’t want to be perceived as trying too hard. And that’s me judging other women. Nobody else has ever told me that I’m too much. So I realize that it’s me policing other women by saying that woman’s too much and it’s negative. When I recognized that I was doing that, I was just like “That’s fucked up!”

Hannah: This balancing act that we do as women, it’s like standing in front of the mirror and moving a tiny thing, adjusting the tiniest little thing. As we’ve been talking I just had this thought about every first day of school. Until grade 9 I went to school in a small fishing village in Nova Scotia, just outside of Halifax. What was cool was soooo narrow. But I had these wild impulses and in the summer I’d be wearing whatever I wanted. Then the first day of school would come and it would be this beautiful opportunity…and I remember the first day of grade 7 I wore this outfit that I got at a thrift shop: these huge bellbottoms and this little belly tops that had castles and bubbles on it. It was the fucking dopest outfit ever. And I walked in on the first day of school and everyone was wearing Gap hoodies. I felt too visible and too seen. That experience of always wanting to be very expressive and whimsical and facing this very narrow idea of what is acceptable at every turn.

Maylee: I’m constantly being told “too much.” These last few months even. I recently had a breakup with a partner and he said he was looking for someone more “feminine,” but I think what he meant was an introvert. I also remember a man saying on a date “I usually never date girls that are bald. This is a first for me.” EXCUSE ME! This is suppose to be a compliment? Get outta my face! In those moments first I laugh and shake my head. But overall these moments confuse and upset me. It feels natural for me to be bold, spontaneous, comfortable, and everything else under the sun. Why are certain qualities set for a specific gender? Why can’t I sit with my legs open? Why do I need to pitch my voice an octave down in the gym (I was a personal trainer for 10yrs) or when I talk music gear in order to be taken seriously by men? I’ve tested these experiments to get further in these male dominating industries. It’s strange how something as pitching your voice can get you further.

Barbara in her “that’s too much leopard print” 

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2. “Too Much” and the Question of Class

Barbara: I actually in my mind pair “too much” with being really put together. But that’s actually what I want. I want to look really fucking sleek and sophisticated. I think of minimalism. If your blog is Advanced Style, mine is Unfancy. Basically the blog is about this woman who limited herself to 36 items per season and then mix and matches those outfits and offers an outfit a day.

Me: Capsule wardrobes!

Barbara: Exactly! So I recently got rid of 65% of my wardrobe and I’ve been experimenting with what that feels like and it feels amazing. When I think about what I want that feels “too much,” I think of my mother’s tiny B200 Mercedes Benz. My parents are exactly people that aren’t super well off, but they’re Russian so they like having things that make them look really wealthy. And I have that in me. I have this desire to look like I’m really wealthy and I don’t actually have a problem with that. I want to be the really fucking foxy one, with a really stylized wardrobe, and my hair perfectly styled. I don’t want to be weird. I want to be Meryl Streep from…

Natalie: From everything!

Barbara: Exactly! I just want to be glamazon. I actually have narratives around how I don’t get to be that while I’m not rolling it in. Which is cray-cray. Because I have this awesome blazer sweater that I bought from the Kind Exchange, it was brand new, but it was an $80 piece from Winners. Most of the time I don’t give myself permission to wear heels because I’ll have to take the subway and I don’t want to take the subway – I want to bike. And I feel like if I wear heels I’m sending off the message that I’m fancy or something and that I want to look better than that. But I really do want to look better than that!

laughter

And so that’s something that I’m thinking about in relation to class and money. What is too much money.

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Really emphasizing/embracing my own anxiety around “that’s too much boob.” (Or is it….?)

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Me: Yeah, I have this weird guilt complex when I buy clothes at full price. I was in need of a fall jacket that I would want to wear all the time and I hadn’t been able to find one, so I go to Zara and I buy the jacket and it’s way more money than I would spend. But at this point I’ve purchased 4 different fall jackets over the years that I don’t wear that much because they’re not doing all the things that I want. I’ve prided myself on being really thrifty because growing up poor there’s just no other option. But then I have so much guilt buying a jacket over $100. It’s not $500! But I feel like in my circle of other friends who, like me, are poor grad students and are thrifting, this jacket is a big expense that they would feel was “too much.” I actually had a friend who asked to try on my jacket and she asked, “Is this money or money-money?” And I was like, “It’s somewhere between money and money-money”…

laughter

And when I told her how much it was, she was like “OH! That’s money-money!” And took the jacket off. And then I felt bad for some reason…

Barbara: And that’s totally you self-policing based off of what somebody else said.

Me: Totally! There’ve definitely been times where I’ve thought, “I’d never spend that much money on x.” But I feel like I’ve started to make more space for that as I’ve gotten older.

Hannah: I just spent way too much money on the most amazing pair of boots.

laughter

They’re the coolest…I just looked at them and thought that they were the coolest shoes in the world. And they don’t even fit me that well. I have really big feet, size 10 or 11. And they had a 10 that were just a little too tight. But then I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ll never regret buying these.” It’s more than half my rent this month and I’m freelance…but I just couldn’t walk away from them. And I was angry at the sales person. I was like, “I don’t like you.”

laughter

She was like, “You should get them. They’re so awesome. They look so great.” And I was like, “STOP IT! I’m going to buy them, alright? UGH! I hate you!” It was a really hilarious moment. And now I own these boots and I wear them all the time and love them a lot and they kind of hurt, but they’re so cool and so me.

Barbara: That’s so amazing. I get excited hearing that. Viscerally I’m like, “YEAHHHH!!!”

Hannah: You know, I was in the store and I put them on and my pulse sped up and that feeling doesn’t come along that often where you connect like this with a piece of clothing. Let’s dance.

Aubyn: I totally talk myself out of those moments. I won’t let myself do that. Unless it’s something practical and I can be like, “I can wear through three seasons and it will keep me warm.” I know that comes from living in cold places…or maybe I don’t know where that comes from. I’ll spend a lot of money on a good practical jacket, but I won’t be happy wearing it. It’s not dressy enough or something.

Maylee: If I spend a lot of money on an item (which is not common) it’s because I’m gonna wear the shit outta that piece or it’s a great stage piece.

Barbara: Last winter was the first time that I bought myself a really beautiful parka and I researched it and spent $400 on it. But I look at all of the photos of me from last winter and I just think, “I look soooooo good!” It’s the best.

Natalie in all her sassy feminine “too many prints” glory

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3. Our “Too Much” Spaces

Natalie: One of the reasons that I tried to curate the folks here tonight is that I feel like a lot of you have made space for being too much – either energetically or sartorially. You’ve created a balance between whatever you have to do day-to-day and then creating these spaces and events that allow other people or yourselves to express this creative “too much” part of themselves. I was wondering if people could talk more about those spaces and what those spaces mean to them? I haven’t created intentional spaces for myself to do that. If I have a “too much” day I’m just like “I look good today!” I didn’t create a special event for that to happen.

Me: I will say Natalie, your clothing line with the two-piece matching crop top skirt combos that you make. I want to put that out there as something that you’re doing that is playful (for more of Nat’s clothing, follow her on instagram).

Natalie: I think that my sewing endeavours do make space for that. I just think about crazy things that I would want to wear and then I make them. Right now I’m working on a line of onesies because that’s all I want to wear. Weird onesies.

Hannah: There’s one moment this summer that I think about because it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was going out to some event, I can’t remember what it was, but that moment of looking in the mirror and agonizing. I was changing my shoes obsessively. I have this pair of silver space man doc marten boots.. I never wear them because they’re way too much. They’re soooo much. I was putting them and taking them off and putting them on. Then I looked in the mirror and thought, “What the fuck are you doing? Nobody cares what shoes you’re wearing! If this makes you happy, wear it!” I just saw myself and all this energy I was spending that I could’ve been using at this party to meet new people and I was at home putting a pair of boots on and off and turning in the mirror and going “ugh and ugh.”

Then I had opportunities in the last summer/early fall to play with drag and that just suddenly blossomed as this place where I can wear whatever I want and be super creative. And the community of drag queens…they’re so supportive and they’re so creative. There’s this space for craftiness and DIY. It’s expensive but also you have to cut corners, because it can be too much money if you keep coming up with new outfits. I see drag queens in my life crafting these incredible looks out of nothing and it’s so remarkable. But it’s really weird how it’s perceived by people not in the drag community. People in the drag community totally get it, “Oh ya, of course you want to do drag!” The drag queens I meet never ask me, “What? You’re a woman and you want to do drag?” They get it. It’s fucking fun and amazing. But people are like, “What? But you’re already a woman. Why would you want to…” And I’m like, “Have you met a drag queen? That’s not what I look like when I go to work or walk around the world!”

 laughter

Just last night I was having a conversation with this guy and I was telling him how last year for Halloween I went as the Queen of the Universe and it felt amazing. But now I’m just doing drag all the time and that’s basically the same thing! And then this guy proceeded to tell me how being a drag queen wasn’t the same thing as being queen of the universe and I should just be the queen of the universe if I want to be. And I was like “Okay, who has more experience being the queen of the universe here?” You? Or me?

Hannah aka Pish Posh

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Natalie: What was the moment when you decided that you were going to do this and what was that like?

Hannah: A good friend of mine has started to explore drag and he’s someone who I trust. I was really intimidated by the whole idea of doing drag. I think I had a lot of almost…it expressed itself as resentment towards the drag community, but what it actually was a deep envy and sort of longing. Because I saw what drag queens were doing and the part of me that wanted to do that was like banging against the walls and that pain or that tension came out as other things. Like I’d talk about misogyny in the drag community. And now that I’m actually involved in the drag community, I face very little of that. I think I spun that up in order to try to understand these feelings that I was having. So I had an opportunity in a safe space to play with drag and it was kind of a no brainer and I dropped a lot of cash on it over the course of a week. I was just like “YEP!”

It’s kind of crazy, because as I’ve started to do this I’ve relaxed so much about how I present on a day-to-day basis. I ride the streetcar late at night in full drag and people are celebrating it. Just the other night a bunch of guys came up to me and were like “You’re making us feel at home. It’s like carnival! It’s so great! You look so good!” People approach me and it’s a privilege as a cis woman doing drag. It’s less transgressive and I know my gay male friends who do drag…there’s definitely an element of risk and policing and violence and I sometimes forget about that and have to remind myself. At the same time I have my own reasons for doing drag that are very different and have to do with understanding femininity as someone who is expected to perform it in a specific way every single day. I’ve spent my whole time trying to perfect femininity. And to just bust out with it and have no barriers, it’s so fun.

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A behind the scenes shot captured by the lovely Barbara

Me: It’s super interesting because as you’re acknowledging this privilege that you have, I was wondering: do you get policed less when you’re in drag than you do in your day to day life? If you’re a man doing drag, you aren’t policed in your day-to-day life in the same way. There’s this interesting switch in terms of the ways in which one gender experiences privilege in the day-to-day and how one experiences it in drag. We’re all talking about being excessive and how we feel like we’re being policed when we do, and yet for you, being so over the top in drag is this moment of not being policed.

Natalie: You’re beyond policing!

Hannah: It’s like “Excuse me! What are you going to try to tell me to do?”

Maylee: NOT GIVING A FUCK is so powerful. No one can make you feel a certain way unless you allow it. Yes it’s a constant battle and annoying to constantly having to defend yourself by being witty, but this is how I’ve managed to cope with sexism in society. Being intelligent and funny – killer combo – can’t debate with that MON!

Natalie: And in this case you can’t be trying too hard. Because if you’re doing too much then you’re doing it right.

laughter

 Me: I’d love to hear Aubyn talk about the League of Lady Wrestlers.

Aubyn: So this shirt I’m wearing tonight, I got because my wrestling character, Big Jody Mufferaw is retiring at this last event, for a number of reasons. One of them is that I got hurt a bunch pretty badly. But the history and legacy that she brings to the ring is that she’s a log driver, working in the lumber industry in the Ottawa Valley and the legacy of her family is that they’re logging on stolen First Nation’s land. It was very complicated weird conversation that I was having between this character that I play and myself. Anyways, she was retiring and I wanted her to look good and I saw this shirt on Bunz Trading Zone and was like “That’s the shirt!” It’s got sparkly buttons and a bow! It’s got all the things. But it’s too much for me to wear as Aubyn the real person. Luckily I play a character in a woman’s wrestling league that could wear this. It’s weird, she’s become this friend of mine, kind of like my counsel and it’s easier for me to wear things or do things if I play her, versus just being myself. And now that she’s retiring, I’ll have to pull from other characters or something.

As far as creating the space…I’ve been thinking about this a lot because at the League of Lady Wrestlers, we call ourselves wrestlers but the crucial aspect of being part of the league is creating this character that is an extension of yourself. And lots of people play these disgusting or weird characters. I think that everyone agrees that their characters are an extension of themselves. So some people go full glam, like Screw Unicorn or Kitty Stardust and then some people go to the opposite of that spectrum, like Stinker or Garbage Face. But everyone agrees that it’s super empowering releasing this person and showing off this thing inside of them. That’s my favourite part of the League of Lady Wrestlers.

Aubyn aka. Big Jody Mufferaw

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Maylee: The Toronto Island is a beautiful accepting place for all weirdos and norms alike [This is where the last League of Lady Wrestlers match was held.] It’s a safe space, specifically Artscape Gilbralter Point, where one can chill naked and not feel the judgment day of others.

laughter

Also my space! At the Todd castle there’s no need for judgment. Go all out or don’t!

4. “Too Much” Femininity = Too Much Misogyny**
**Any amount of misogyny is too much. The same logic doesn’t hold for femininity.

Me: For me another too much narrative that I forgot about was “too many feelings.” All the feelings, all the time, that’s the story of my life. It’s been really cool to do blogging stuff and internet stuff where I’ve been able to foster a space to talk about that. It was really beautiful but messed up to me when I published this essay in an academic blog recently about emotional labour and how there’s no space for crying in academia and I got emails from people and way more of a response then I’ve ever received. People just being like, “Oh my god, yes! Thank you for talking about this.” Because there’s so much stigma around mental health and feelings in general, that it’s really powerful when you talk about those issues. I want to work to depathologize this narrative of excess that surrounds the feelings that young girls and women have.

Natalie: Something that I actually talked about in my workshops is how for years I was in relationships with men who couldn’t make space to listen to my feelings and made me feel like my feelings were excessive or unwarranted. And my response was to become very analytical and rational and very masculine. The only way I could win was to out-rationalize my male partners. And it’s still a legacy that I have and need to work through. As a queer person I remember throwing out my dresses and dressing like a boy and I got so much more attention when I was dressing more masculine. I think that part of my policing is tied to the policing of my emotional life tied to femininity and the suppression of female energy. I just want to be able to acknowledge my feelings._DSC5882

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Barbara: I think I totally struggle with my internalized misogyny and I have a female partner so I find myself policing her emotions and having a difficult time in making space for her to just have feelings. Which is fascinating because I have no problem making space for people’s feelings in my professional life – that’s what I do! But when it comes to my relationship I associate helping her figure it out with being a good partner. And if I can’t help her figure it out then I worry about how that reflects on me as a partner.

I’ve thought a lot about misogyny in the queer community, especially as someone who’s a femme and has been a femme her whole life. I think I spent about two months dressing as a boy when I came out and then realized that it was such a joke because that’s not who I am. I think that when I feel like I don’t look queer enough, what it’s really about is not feeling attractive enough within the queer community. If we’re going to be femme there has to be a bit of an edge…

Hannah: SIDE SHAVE!

laughter

Barbara: I read a blog recently that was about gaydar and she came to the conclusion that if you want to be recognized as queer, but you’re a femme, you have to have one thing about you every day that’s edgy. Sometimes it feels like the honest thing to admit is that I worry that I’m not desirable. There’s so much competition amongst femmes too. And to think about all of the misogyny that’s playing into all of this, it’s really heartbreaking.

Natalie: Like I said earlier, part of the reason I wanted to have this conversation is because I was recognizing that my judgments towards myself were actually coming from a place where I was judging other women. And I was thinking “What the fuck was that?” I’ve had super deep female friendship my whole life. But that doesn’t matter. Still there’s something deep in me, maybe because I want to be radical and be seen as radical, and some other women just aren’t radical enough. I don’t know.

Barbara: What goes through your mind when you see somebody that’s trying too hard or is too much?

Natalie: I think it’s just a narrative of “She’s trying too hard. Who’s she trying to impress?” And oftentimes I guess that’s part of a narrative that’s like, “She’s under the influence of the patriarchy.”

Hannah: There you go!

Natalie: If she could choose, she probably wouldn’t be trying that hard to look like what male standards want her to look like. It’s me trying to react to patriarchy but patriarchy would also have me pitted against other women in order to divide our energies.

Maylee: I’m gonna out myself. It was definitely a woman hater for sure. Before I realized that hate on hate woman was a dumb thing that shouldn’t exist and is not a progressive way to operate, I did have some of that. I can’t think of anything in particular, but I know that has happened. Maybe the girl was louder and I was intimidated or felt competitive. Now we’d be partners in crime. Women hating on women really breaks my heart. Sure I operated this way as a teen but as a woman I think we can move past that. As a woman, life is already hard. I mean life can be pretty hard in general and we should not be in competition with each other. Lets all collaborate/celebrate everyone’s strength and unique beauty.

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Hannah: Since I’ve started to put more effort into my drag outfits, the other day I was down the street behind this woman and damn she looked so good and she had these beautiful high heels on and this jacket that just flowed and her hair was really well done and I could just tell that she’d put a lot of effort into putting herself together. She turned around to look at something and she was so gorgeous. I looked at her and I just wanted to say, “You look SO good today!” When I was a teenager I remember wearing things that made me happy not just for me but for other people. I wanted to connect with people and show them…there’s a kind of generosity about it…there’s a kind of generosity about doing drag. I don’t do this just for me. I do it for you guys. For anyone who’s going to see this blog post. I’m doing it to shine out something that’s inside of me that connects with other people in the world.

5. “Too Much” Inspiration

Natalie: One of the questions that we wanted to ask is are there people in your life or scenarios in your life that inspire you to feel too much? Are there safe spaces or places that you can go to? 4-5 years ago I was introduced to this blog called Advanced Style and it’s dedicated to fashionable women over the age of 55 living in New York. They have become my fashion icons. I don’t know any models at all, but I know these women from this blog. All of the women that I think about being are over 65 and I glamorize that time…it gives me hope because maybe I’m freaked out about being old…

Hannah: That’s great! I’m going to be old but I’m going to get to wear crazy hats!

Natalie: It’s like I’m putting my internal desires on hold because I don’t want to be perceived as this woman who’s too self-indulgent or too into fashion, which is taken to be something that’s totally frivolous. I want to be taken seriously. I want to be involved in social activism and things that are important and fasHion doesn’t mesh with that. So I’m like, “When I’m 65 and retired I can do all that shit. I can dress however I want and I can chain myself to trees and get arrested because it doesn’t matter anymore. And look amazing.” I’ve really put a limit on myself by only thinking about fashion and being eccentric as being acceptable when you’re over x age. But I also really love that the fashion world is valuing older women and older women are becoming fashion models. So I guess I wonder “What am I waiting for?”

Maylee: My Mom’s fashion is outta sight! She’s always dressed, lets say unconventional. For example she’s wear a string of pressed wool flowers are a scarf or a hat that’s shaped like a brain. She really thinks outside of the box in her art and in her fashion. And my Tita’s always been a big old dyke. I just thought everyone had a classic dyke in their family. Did not think it was unique or different. Her presence alone made an impact on me. Love you Tita! Also really love this piece that Tina Fey wrote about Amy Pohler: in one of the writing rooms their co-writer (male) told Amy to be quiet, that she’s not being cute and Amy replied, “I’m not here to be cute.” That’s very powerful.

Barbara: The women who inspire my own too muchness, or more accurately to be more of myself, is femme women who use how they look to take space in a way that reflects the work they invested in getting there. This is actually true of both queer and straight women – it’s about the effort put into the look rather than whether their outfit is more mainstream or alternative (whatever that means). My mother is a perfect example. Her sense of style is quite different from mine, but I aspire to the attention to detail and form that she adheres to. It is the combination of performance and labour that I appreciate about fashionistas. I love seeing a woman who clearly took hours to get ready and now looks absolutely fly. I love the self-prioritization and self-indulgence of spending as many hours as you want getting the right curl, picking the perfect pair of shoes and matching them to your earrings.

Me: When I think about the women who inspire me, they walk this line between too much femininity and being grotesque or monstrous in their excessiveness. Like Lady Gaga would be the obvious and easy example here. But even someone like Lana Del Rey, who I find so fascinating. She’s drawing upon all of these Hollywood icons of femininity (who are kind of these sad girls) and performing that in such a way that it makes us uncomfortable. I think there’s something really powerful about that. But like Maylee and Barbara, my mom was and continues to be an inspiration for me. She died her hair fire-engine red and wore shirts with sequinned Disney villains and sweaters with 3-D embroidered clown heads. She would dress my brother and I up in this ridiculous outfits when we were kids and we just loved it. She totally didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought of how she dressed and even though she passed away when I was 11, her attitude really stuck with me.

Aubyn: The people who inspire me to be too much are usually my close friends, and three in particular: Jenny, Megan, and Brenna. Jenny and I are both short brunettes, and seeing the stuff she can pull off inspires me to take more chances. She always seems so put together even when she’s just hanging out. Megan sometimes makes her clothes and her wardrobe consists of classic, clean pieces that have structure — stuff that I can’t really wear, but she makes me appreciate wearing clothes that fit my body. Brenna taught me that its worth tailoring clothing. She’s an organic farmer and she works super hard, but she makes work clothes look amazing. Outside of my friends, my secret wish is to be stopped by a street fashion photographer one day so that I could answer the question, “who are your fashion influences?” with “Weird Al and Jerry Seinfeld.”

Hannah: I am blessed with an astonishing number of women in my life who are bold and adventurous in many ways, including their sartorial choices! All of these brave femmes make me feel less alone when I step out into the world, knowing that somewhere out there, a good friend of mine is also most likely wearing TOO MUCH red lipstick. My gemini brother/sweetest drag mother who has supported me in exploring drag as a creative and empowering form of self expression – Bonbon Bontemps – she inspires me by showing that sometimes the process of painting your face is one that reveals, rather than conceals. Sparkles reflect light, and big lips give big smiles.

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This post was written by Margeaux

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