I started dressing for other women at the age of four. Every time I had a playdate with my friend Veronica, I insisted on wearing a particular, red-striped smocked dress. I remember one occasion when my mom told me it was in the laundry and I shed a few stoic tears. In the mind of my four-year-old self, the dress was a mirror of Veronica’s personality — her energy, her preferences, her strawberry-colored hair. I didn’t make those connections at the time, though. Wearing the dress just felt right.
Now I have a name for what I was doing. “Dressing for other women” is such a thing, and for good reason. Out of every philosophy for how I choose to dress and why, it is the one I identify with the most, more than “dressing for myself,” even. If I truly committed to dressing for myself in its most literal sense, I would probably wear a 24/7 rotation of leggings, oversize rainbow sweaters and thick socks (with Allbirds sneakers if I was going outside). Mmmm. So comfy. And that’s the crux of it: Without the context of other humans whose opinions you respect and whose appreciation you enjoy receiving, clothes are just clothes — purely utilitarian.
When I’m dressing for other women, it becomes a wholly creative exercise. My closet takes on brand-new potential, a cupboard of ingredients I can improvise into whatever delicacy I want without agonizing over rules or prescriptions like the idea that an outfit should be “flattering” — a quandary I personally associate with dressing for the male gaze (not to get all Laura Mulvey up in here).
But I’ll stop with the telling and get to the showing, because that’s what you’re here for — right? Behold a breakdown of three outfit recipes for scenarios in which I frequently dress with women top of mind.
Of the many pleasures derived from working for a company wherein a significant percentage of the staff is composed of women, one is the built-in cheering squad for my decision to wear a sequin sunset across my nipples whenever the fancy strikes. Plus a clashing floral dress, metallic purple shoes and, for good measure, mismatched earrings.
2. A G.N.O. — an acronym referring to the mysterious collusion of adult human women in the twilight hours, possibly for the purpose of tearing up a dance floor in a figurative but also literal sense if pointy heels are involved, which they often are.
We have Céline and Balenciaga to thank for the recent propagation of leggings worn under fancy dresses, but I’ve been doing it in secret ever since I realized I hated tights a.k.a. the moment of my conception. With the addition of a spectacular lavender coat that looks like something teens on Instagram would eat and a highly impractical wire-apple purse, I’m ready to drink Old Fashioneds and boogie to the beat of Ed Sheeran.
3. The artist formerly known as brunch and currently known as a contest with myself to taste test every variety of egg preparation the West Village has to offer.
If I had to assign this outfit a character, it would probably be “retired sailor who enjoys short power walks on the beach and long TED talks about the surprising science of happiness,” which is not entirely beside the point. Because one of my favorite outcomes of dressing for other women is learning my style doesn’t have to exist inside a box and is mine to mutate as I see fit. One day it’s a retired sailor and another day it’s Miranda Hobbes after Lasik. It can be messy at times and I definitely don’t always feel like I get it right, but I do have the certainty I’m delivering my creative output to a safety net of support and encouragement — the open minds of women who appreciate what it means for me to let my clothes say what I can’t, lips that might tease but never mock and eyes that won’t squint when the results of my experiments shine too brightly in the corner booth of a crowded restaurant.