Aug 08

Do You Wear Your Clothes or Do They Wear You?

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NOTE: Originally, I was trying to take on too much and I got overwhelmed. So hopefully I narrowed this down to the point where I was able to give it proper attention and be coherent. Pictures may require to be clicked to see full detail.

TL(And trust me, it is)DR: Karma explains, by sharing her own personal experiences, how being comfortable in your own skin is the best way to determine your wardrobe, not the other way around.

Photo by StepOne Photography

There’s been a lot of talk lately concerning how people–especially women–are portrayed in geek culture. It’s been an issue for a while and of course it isn’t exclusive to us geeks–hell, it’s been around long before most of our beloved fandoms even existed. However, the subject seems to have bubbled up a lot more as a response to San Diego Comic Con’s “Oh You Sexy Geek” panel.

From what I can tell, the panel started as a discussion of the criticisms women face who are described as “sexy”, but also identify as geeks. However, a lot of the blogs I’ve been reading focused on the argument of whether the Slave Leia costume empowered or objectified women. Frankly, I think it has the power to do both.

Here’s the thing, the fact that there is so much debate, such controversy about it, suggests that it’s probably subjective. There are very few things that can be considered ‘black and white’ and I really don’t think clothing is one of them. Can something skimpy objectify you? Of course, but then again, so can a full body and face covering. I love fashion, I really do, but regardless if you’re wearing designer or something you made yourself what it really comes down to is this: Why are you wearing it?

We need to broaden the definition of sexy. There are unrealistic expectations of what women need to look like to be sexy. We need to redefine that definition and then sexy won’t be such a loaded term anymore. -Kiala Kazebee, @kiala, “Oh You Sexy Geek” Panelist

Now it’s true that this unfair and unrealistic expectation is not gender-specific, but it’s certainly more blatant (or it seems that way to me) in regards to the ‘fairer sex’. Also, you’re supposed to write what you know. So here we go… This is what I know, down to the intimate detail:

Photo by StepOne Photography

I was a ragdoll born in a world of Barbies–and very keenly aware of it. As a child, you don’t tend to question the status quo or even think to change it; you just accept it (Unless it involves having to go to bed on time) as the way things are supposed to be. You’ve yet to be jaded enough to know you shouldn’t take everything for surface value, so instead of thinking “What’s wrong with the world”, we often think, “What’s wrong with me?” I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t lithe and I sure as hell wasn’t blonde. Yet, every where I turned, from cartoons to the magazines I saw at the grocery store checkout, this was what was heralded as beautiful.

I was short with a sturdy build–some may even say stout, freckled and had feet large enough that I had started to self-identify as a hobbit. Nothing wrong with hobbits of course, but a short, curvy creature with hairy feet and an affinity for food stands out just a wee bit in a crowd of Disney Princesses. This joke, was a half-hearted way of coping and an attempt to deflect any teasing from the other girls.

Of course, this joke would have been more effective had I tried making it later in life when Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy had come out–or if my classmates’ reading level was up to the par of Tolkien–or if they knew who Tolkien was at all for that matter. Needless to say, my “geek cred” resulted in more ridicule and the insecurities I had developed from comparing myself to fictional characters and models was further nurtured by their disdain.

Photo by StepOnePhotography

My Freckles: Far less prominent now that I’m older and have years of avoiding the sun like the plague under my belt, as a child, my freckles were hard for me to ignore. My skin was so pale, they stood out like a cosmetic scarlet letter, ratting out to the world that a little Irish girl stood in direct sunlight (And I grew up in a town that got less sun than Seattle, so this was kind of an impressive accomplishment). The fact that my natural hair color (Yes, I do have one) was so dark, only enhanced the bright white skin beneath the freckles.

Photo by StepOne Photography

My Legs and Feet:

I’m five-foot nothing and I wear size 8 1/2 to 9 shoes. Is that an usual shoe-size? Of course not. But apparently if you’re wee in height like myself, you’re expected to be wee in everything. For years, I was to embaressed to shop for shoes with anyone but my mother–which really stunted fashion in high school, let me tell you.

My legs were another matter entirely: thick calves and thunder thighs; either I was merely built a little more voluptuous or playing soccer non-stop as a kid for eight years bulked them up. When I was younger the size bothered me greatly–mainly because they prevented me from being able to wear certain kinds of boots and I love boots. Really. The fact that I haven’t written an article about them yet is amazing because boots are pretty damn fantastic–but most aren’t built for normal legs–let alone muscley ones.

Photo by StepOne Photography

My Lips: I remember being absolutely floored when I was teased for this. My lips? Of all the things they could have teased me for, they picked my lips? Playing dodgeball in the middle of PE and some kid calls me ‘big lips’. And it caught on.

I was absolutely horrified. I started self-conciously covering my mouth whenever I had the chance. Here was something I’d actually been proud of–something that resembled a feature on one of those ‘ideal beauties’ and I was being mocked for it? Suddenly something I had originally admired about myself became one of my greatest shames. I would tuck them in and hide them completely, as if this would make me look ‘normal’, but I figured ‘weird’ was better than ‘ugly’.

Photo by StepOne Photography

So I hid. I wrapped myself in ‘geek’ to the point where I made it clear that how I looked wasn’t even a thought that entered my mind. It was a shield. I wore baggy pants and shirts to conceal any curve, there were days I didn’t comb my hair so much as just throw it into a messy bun and pull a sweatshirt over my head. The label of ‘weird girl’ became my very own mithril armor.

And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with caring or not caring how you look–but the point is I did care. I just desperately wanted to look like I didn’t care so they’d leave me alone. I wasn’t sincere and I wasn’t confident in myself.

Sexy isn’t about skin, it’s about confidence.
-Bonnie Burton, @bonniegrrl, “Oh You Sexy Geek” panelist

So how’d I get from there to being on GVL and writing about lifestyle and fashion?

Well, I got so frustrated with my face one day, I took a marker and actually drew a line from freckle to freckle in a human version of connect-the-dots. Obviously, that didn’t make me feel better but when I went to wash it all off, I had to look carefully at each and every freckle to make sure it wasn’t marker. It forced me to actually really look at them, not as a blemish that the world insisted was a sign of skin damage but as a characteristic of myself. They were cute–like sprinkles on a cupcake.

A few years later I bought my very first pair of knee-high, black lace-up boots from Hot Topic (Back before it was invaded by hipster clothing). They had one size left: 9. The luck was astounding. I had never worn anything both so comfortable and epic. I felt like I could kick down a door and slay some vampires. As I matured, I realized the problem wasn’t with my genetics, it was the inability of a designer to acknowledge that people come in different shapes and sizes. This is changing, however. More and more, I’m seeing fashionable items being created for someone over a size 2.

And lastly, was when a friend of mine in high school held a make-up party through Mary Kay. A woman I’d never met, who knew I was too young to be a valid client, took one look at me and said, “You have amazing lips.” I had given her my best, “Bitch, please” expression, to which she returned, “No, really, people inject all sorts of things into themselves to get lips like yours.” She handed me lipstick, and proceeded to show me how to use it.

Photo by StepOne Photography

Did any of these items actually change me? No. Marker, boots and lipstick didn’t make me more comfortable with my body, but they did force me to look at myself–really look at myself.
The long and short of this story is a moral we’ve heard over and over again: Be yourself. You’re beautiful just as you are and confidence in your identity is what makes you sexy.

Now? I’m not ashamed of showing a little skin if I want to–and not because I’m ‘pandering’ to male fantasy–or even lesbian fantasy (why was that never brought up?). For the first time in my life, I actually love myself and my body. For the first time, I actually see myself as something beautiful and different. For the first time, I’m not hiding.
So the next time you’re picking out clothes for the day, or even a costume for a convention, ask yourself one simple question: Why am I wearing this?
Am I wearing it for attention (or in my case, to dissuade attention)? Or am I wearing this for me?
I don’t feel like you can be pandering if you’re sincere.
-Seth Green, @SethGreen, “Oh You Sexy Geek” audience member


  1. Kit

    A wonderfully well-written post, my dear. Thank you for writing it! It’s actually given me a bit to think about, in regards to the plans I have for costumes at Sakuracon next year. Thank you for making me think! <3

  2. Sandra

    “Sexy isn’t about skin, it’s about confidence” I wish I knew this through my teenage years but Its so so true!

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    Please message me with any pointers about how you made your blog site look this cool , I would appreciate it.

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