I took inventory of my closet today and am prepared to make an official statement. For the first time in my life, I own more dresses than pants and slacks combined. In fact, I was surprised to discover that my ratio of dresses to two-legged garments is nearly 2:1!
After spending most of my life dressing more like a boy, it appears that I am finally returning to my feminine roots. In honor of this occasion, I would like to reflect on how I got here.
To begin with, I grew up with one sister and no brothers. I don’t know if that is why my parents didn’t restrict my clothes or activities to gender stereotypes, or if they were simply progressive thinkers. Either way, I spent my childhood wearing mostly pants with only the occasional dress or skirt. It was simply more practical since I spent half the year riding my bike everywhere and the other half trying to stay warm in the cold Montana winters.
I didn’t just dress like a boy, though. I also enjoyed doing boyish things. Along with having the traditional girl toys, like baby dolls and Barbie dolls, I also owned Tonka trucks, Matchbox cars, a BB gun, and my own train set that I set up down in the basement.
I wasn’t a tomboy – I was simply multifaceted. While my dad was teaching me how to use power tools and shoot firearms, my mom was teaching me how to cook and sew. I loved it all and the presence of such variety nurtured my creative and adventurous spirit!
As I grew older, I continued my ambi-sextrous ways. In high school and college I was an avid body builder and high country backpacker, who could also be found inventing new recipes in the kitchen and customizing my wardrobe at the sewing machine. Maybe it was the rebel in me that refused to bow to gender stereotypes, or maybe I simply enjoyed the best of both worlds!
I suppose it is not surprising, then, that my career ended up being in a male-dominated field. Yet, in order to be taken seriously by my male counterparts, I felt like I needed to downplay my femininity. As a result, I ended up dressing more like a man.
Although I have finally grown beyond feeling I have to prove myself in the workplace, I still wear slacks to work more often than not, only because the engineering and manufacturing environment is not conducive to skirts and heels. However, when I am not at work, my dresses come out of the closet and so do I!
So, what happened to shift the trajectory of my wardrobe in the direction of my feminine side? As I reflect on this transformation, I can attribute it to three significant events:
- I stopped believing what society had taught me from an early age, that men have more value than women. I stopped seeing femininity as “less than” and started to embrace all the wonderful strengths and attributes I possess as a woman.
- I invested in some high quality shoes that look good with dresses and are actually comfortable enough to wear all day every day. This was no small feat for my feet, because I am not one of those women who can cram their toes into any old shoe just to be fashionable. I am way too practical for that.
- I discovered I like how I feel when I dress like a lady. I also noticed it brings out acts of chivalry that otherwise might lie dormant in the male species, and there is just something about having a door opened for you that makes you feel like a princess.
It feels wonderful to finally be celebrating my femininity instead of diminishing it, but don’t worry… I still lift weights and can repair a broken blend door actuator module on a Ford Ranger, so don’t let my long red nails fool you!