How dressing up lets everyone be something.
Halloween recently passed and now the Christmas decorations are emerging. There are two kinds of people on Halloween- those who are there for the candy, and those who are there for the costumes. And hey, maybe you’re a little bit of both. But I’ve always looked forward to digging into my closet to figure out what I could make last minute. It’s all part of the challenge! This holiday makes me so happy to see the creativity that people don’t usually express through dress.
My tribute to David Bowie DIY style
Living in New York City allows me to be a bit more creative with my clothes than the average person, without drawing a huge amount of attention to myself. When I am not in head-to-toe black I love taking advantage of this. I’ve been thinking a lot of about dress and identity these days. Recently someone told me that I should not put pressure on myself to dress up for dance.
For those who don’t know, I dance Argentine tango, and a large part of the fun of the dance for me (and other women I suspect) is dressing up. While a sparkly dress is by no means necessary to enjoying dancing, I always found it to be a fun and creative artistic outlet, so much so that I am now creating and selling my own dance clothes.
While his point was that I do not need to feel pressure that I have to conform to any beauty standards, it made me really think about the role that clothing plays in identity. Of course there are days that I feel like staying in my pants and glasses with no makeup. And I allow myself to have those days. However, clothing has always been a way for me to express an identity when I often feel like I don’t have one.
If someone asks you “so what are you?” likely you’ll have an answer. Maybe even a langue spoken at home with your family. I never had that. A clear answer I mean. But I was raised to love, and that’s good enough for me. I was raised in a Jewish household with a Catholic mother that makes the best brisket and latkes ever. She’s the one remembering the holiday dates of course. But I never learned Tagalog, and she hasn’t been to the Philippines in more than four decades. I have never been either. I didn’t have a bat mitzvah, but I can feel the bagels and lox in my bloodline. Luckily in New York I never felt out of place.
Come on, how cute are these two? This is the “love” thing I was talking about.
But looking at me I look “ethnically ambiguous.” Too “exotic” to be white. Too European to be Asian. In Filipino communities I am praised FOR my white features when my mothers features are my epitome of beauty. Sometimes I struggle to find her in me. Even my sister, who may be the one person to see through the same lens as me, screeched when I nearly ruined her recently blowdried hair when I sprayed it with water to set. Her light brown curly hair apparently follows different rules than my straight black hair when it comes to water. Something about frizz. Go figure.
But looking “ethnically ambiguous” allows me to have fun transforming through make-up and clothing. It helps me find a place when I don’t feel Filipina enough to be a Filipina or Jewish enough to be Jewish. (Did you just say “you can’t be a religion.” My response is that my “Jewish” ancestors most likely moved throughout Eastern Europe in a community, likely only marrying other Jews. So there is a small chance they intermarried with the local population, but likely the would have stayed within their community. It’s not a perfect label but it does the job.) Not Russian enough to be Russian. Although now the territorial line may have put them in Ukraine. Basically, not enough of anything.
But I’ve learned that I’m just “enough” for me.