Something that unifies skirt and dress-loving people this time of year is how to stay warm as well as stylish. As a native Californian who moved to the East Coast ten years ago I have developed some coping mechanisms to maintain my stylish exterior as much as possible while still being a total cry baby about how cold it is outside.
In the last few months, I have read and heard a lot of musings about Femme that begin with sentences like “There’s an unspoken expectation that Femme means consumerism” and “Femme is more than how many labelwhore handbags you own” and on and on about how Femme is so much more than spending money.
I find statements like this troubling. Partially because I think when people make arguments against “unspoken” anything, they’re making assumptions, usually out of insecurity. Assumptions and insecurity are the kryptonite of community building and connections. I also find it annoying because I think it’s falling into the WASPy* notion that we can’t or shouldn’t talk about money.**
The part of being Femme that I’ve found to be the most rewarding are the DIY*** aspects of putting yourself together. I haven’t known any other way to be Femme.
When I came into Femme, I came into it knowing lots of people who shared their resources. When I compliment someone on their make-up, for example, usually I get a response like “Thanks! It’s MAC blah blah blah” or “It’s wet n wild blah blah blah can you believe it?” Or if they didn’t offer where they bought something, and I wanted to know, I’d just ask. I’ve never had anyone bristle at the question and it’s been a great way to piece together my sense of style.
As fat girls, especially, since plus size clothes are so much harder to find than clothes under size 14, it’s always been my fat femme sisters who told me where to find things, how to modify things to fit, how to wear things to make them flattering, and most importantly, how much stuff costs!
Femme cannot be bought. Period. But the process of putting together a style that makes you feel comfortable in your skin does sometimes take some scrapiness and bargain shopping. I love bargain shopping–I call it Femme Hunting. Half the time the process of getting together an outfit is fun in and of itself.
So it is in this spirit of opening dialogue about Femme Hunting that I present my new blog series: Girl You Look Expensive****. I’ll find a fierce fat femme, interview her about her outfit and post it here. The idea is how you can look fierce and fashionable without spending a lot of money.
My top was free. Like, really, really free. It’s a t-shirt that I got at a Divabetics event at ReDress and then altered. My skirt is from Torrid via ReDress and was, like, $9. My shoes are glitter peeptoe flats and were a whopping $5 on sale at Payless. My bangle and ring are cheapie H&M. My earrings were $12 and are the most expensive piece in this ensemble. I bought them from a fierce young Black womyn artist on 125th Street in Harlem.
There are folk who are constantly talking about how femmes are totally materialistic and into consumerism and how it’s rare and special for a femme to have a budget, be eco-friendly, diy-fierce, or even poor. That idea is really classist, all on its own. It makes the assumption that all femmes have the resources and income and desire to spend small fortunes on their wardrobes. It makes the assumption that femmes who have fierce things spend a bunch to become that fierce. Untrue.
I am lucky that I live in New York City and have cheap and fashionable clothing resources available to me. As a femme of Color, I also have a shit ton of pressure imposed upon me to dress and carry myself in a certain way (clean and poised). I have the privilege to dress as funky as I want, have natural hair, and still be seen as human in the POC and queer communities. Julia Starkey’s essay “Fatness and Uplift” is a great resource about the cultural standards imposed on Black womy/en, especially when we are fat. Read it.
I also refuse to judge other femme’s priorities. Most of the Femmes With Money that I know are super humble and generous. And crafty and aware of their privilege.
I have a great balance of cheap and pricier items in my wardrobe. My friends and I don’t brag about how much our fierce crap costs or about silly brands, that just isn’t how our community works.
Places I love to shop because I’m young, fierce, fat, and poor:
ReDress NYC (Duh! Fierce fierce FIERCE)
AJ Wright (Great deals on handbags, shoes, and dresses!)
GirlProps (Cheap and cute accesories)
Etsy.com (Handmade goodies, totally worth $1 or $100)
H&M (I’m fat, but I swear by their jewelery and I know lots of plus size folk who can fit into their stuff)
Payless (But only during BOGO)
DSW (I love the purple sale tags….)
Taureret is starting a Radical Fatshion Zine. There’s a group on FaceBook if you are interested in joining and donating your skills!
*Defined by urban dictionary here. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=waspy
**In this society, as women, as queers, as folks who don’t have access to making a lot of money, it is really important that we get rid of the tendency not to talk about how we manage our money or how we make our money. A lot of us just don’t have skills or weren’t raised in households where we were taught how to do that, or know any other way but living paycheck to paycheck. Let’s be real, a lot of us don’t have the option of doing anything but living paycheck to paycheck, but even some of us who do have an abundance don’t know how to manage it. When you have to get creative with money, that’s when having an open dialogue with community members is really helpful–about bargains, work arounds, making do and mending.
***Do it Yourself.
****Named for Jenna Riot’s song of the same name. http://www.myspace.com/jennariotmusic