Hi, I'm Lauren, and I'm a feminist. See, I have no problem putting that down in writing. I also have no problem talking about gender inequality to anyone who will listen, whether that's my friends, my co-workers, or a random guy I've matched with on Tinder. But for some reason, the thought of dressing myself in feminist apparel has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. In an effort to figure out why, I scoured the internet to find clothing pieces outside my comfort zone.
I started off small, selecting three different clothing pieces that express my views on the equality of the sexes, each progressively more and more blatant. The goal was not only to pay attention to others' responses to my wardrobe, but also to take a personal inventory of my thoughts and feelings while doing so.
After all, in this exercise I'd literally be wearing my heart — or at least my feminist agenda — on my sleeve.
Outfit 1: Sock it to me.
This first outfit was, at first glance, not a feminist outfit at all. Jeans and a neutral colored T-shirt don't exactly scream "women's rights," which made it a safe choice to test the waters with. I wore these Rosie the Riveter socks to a volunteer event in the morning, where I made sandwiches and care packages for local homeless citizens of Washington, D.C. Afterwards, my friends and I went to the Renwick Gallery — a beautiful modern fixture exhibit — then to a waffle stand for a late brunch. All in all, I felt super normal in this outfit. I wasn't bothered by the feminist message I was sending as much as I was bothered by the uncomfortable combo of skinny jeans and crew socks. Not my best look.
Outfit 2: A humorous approach.
The next outfit was a little bit more blatant, but didn't take itself too seriously. Yes, it makes a statement, but not one that is super political or easy to pick apart. After all, who can argue with pizza? I wore this outfit to get lunch with a friend and to later get a haircut: a pretty mundane day in the life of a suburban girl. The only thing that made matters a little more complicated was visiting my workplace. I'm a retail employee at a popular cosmetics store that doubles as a salon, so I was going there to have one of our stylists cut my hair. Being relatively new to this location, I was hesitant to go in on my day off wearing such a brazen statement. But then I remembered that I work with all women at an establishment based on all things girly; if anything, this was the perfect place to debut this look. In fact, my manager complimented me on my shirt on the way out, which gave me a little confidence boost.
Outfit 3: All in.
I actually designed this shirt myself, but this was the outfit I was dreading. I'll be honest: I was putting off wearing this outfit, constantly making excuses as to why I couldn't pull it off. "No," I'd tell myself, "today's not the day. I have to go to the doctor's office to get a prescription and I need him to take me seriously," or whatever that day's events entailed. Finally I got over my fear and put on the shirt for a trip to Ikea with my mom. I figured if I'd be debuting a liberal statement anywhere, Sweden would be a good place to do it.
This outfit was the only one in which I noticed actual stares from onlookers; not necessarily angry or disagreeable ones, though. In fact, one mother gave me a reassuring nod, pushing a stroller through the showroom with two young daughters in tow. That was a nice way to boost my spirits, especially after tirelessly wandering around the furniture warehouse for hours. In the photos below you can really see how over it I was, posing stupidly for photos as I fantasized about the Ikea brand chocolate bar in my purse.
Overall, here's what I learned: wearing any sort of statement just isn't for me. My shirt could simply say "hello" on it, and I'd still feel weird about wearing it. In fact, I get insecure and cross my arms over my chest when I wear my shirt that says "OK, but first coffee" (a TJ Maxx impulse buy), because I'm just not super into stares from strangers. It's not that I was insecure about the feminist statements I was rocking, but that my personal approach to fashion is more subdued.
Honestly, I think a lot of that has to do with being a woman in a public space. So often, women are stared at or harassed just by virtue of living and breathing, so anything that draws more attention to my existence isn't a clothing piece I'll find myself gravitating toward. But I did pay for these shirts, so I'll try to challenge myself to wear them from time to time.