About a month ago I was in a shop with a friend waiting for her to return a dress. Somewhat curious I asked one of the staff what dress size they thought I might be. A 10 as it turns out. Still curious I thought, sod it, I’ll just try one on. So I did and I liked it and so did my friend. Then a little while after that I found myself trying another dress on and this time I shared the picture on Facebook and it went down well – y’know, plenty of likes and comments (the real stuff of self-affirmation). And now all I want from Father Christmas is a dress.
So why do I, as a guy, want to get a dress? Predominantly because I think life is too short not to. Dresses are brilliant and far more interesting than the often monochrome array of clothes on offer for men. I wore dresses when I little, as part of dressing up, and back then no one batted an eyelid. But then there came an age when I stopped wearing dresses and stuck to trousers and grey t-shirts – in other words I adopted normalised masculinity and the idea of breaking this norm became increasingly hard to imagine. At school it didn’t even occur to me to wear a dress and if I had, imagine the ridicule, bullying and how stupid I’d look. Someone born with a penis, testicles and presumably a Y chromosome isn’t supposed to wear skirts after all.
But is that really it? A doctor saw my penis at birth and designated me a man and because of that I was put in certain clothes, certain schools and granted certain privileges. So many expectations and assumptions were attached to me just because I was a boy, including what clothes I should and should not wear. But I’m a little older now and less fearful of bullies (because I actually get to choose who I hang out with) and better at interrogating the expectations that others have of me, so maybe I can finally get that dress. Add to this what the sales assistant said to me as I asked for their opinion on the second dress I tried on – they said there are more important things to be worrying about at the moment than whether some random guy is wearing a dress. And I agreed. Even if other people do find it weird, if I look good in it, then why not!
And that’s really the main reason I want to get a dress for Christmas, because it suits me. I’m not making a comment about my gender (that’s for a different blog post) and I’m not trying to parody what it means to be a woman by wearing clothes that are typically sold to women. No. I just want to wear clothes that I like and it’s a sad state of affairs if other people have a problem with that. But it’s their problem, not mine. What we wear is a big deal and we express ourselves through our fashion but that still doesn’t mean we can be reduced to our clothes, there’s so much more to people than that, and nor should it mean that little boys who like to wear dresses should stop having to wear them because others can be too close-minded. Of course, there’s more to this than style, there are bigger questions to be asked of gender identities, roles and norms; the gender binary itself and what biological sex really is. But for now all I want is for Father Christmas to give me that dress and not another lump of coal.