When I reached out to Meredith Talusan, Senior Editor of them, to do a style story for Man Repeller — and Meredith said yes — the next step was to come up with a theme, something to guide the direction of the clothes and the overall looks I’d style them in.
“One of the problems that I consistently consider is how can I be stylish for myself without necessarily falling into the traps of how people are expected to be stylish,” they told me during our pre-shoot phone call, “especially [without] falling into binary ideas of what it means to be a stylish person.”
Their frequent solve is to mix together stereotypically gendered clothing, or to juxtapose clothing with the addition or absence of makeup. (Take the jewel-buttoned, bell-sleeved Nina Tiari jacket/Chromat suit combo that Meredith wore to the GLAAD Awards, for example; Meredith told me they went makeup-free in this outfit for this very reason.) They also went an entire season wearing only jumpsuits because of its ability to go either — or neither — way. But when the heat stakes its claim on the city, these options lose appeal.
“In the winter, you have more ways to play with your representation because of layers,” Meredith said as we got deeper into the belly of what we wanted to achieve, style-wise. “As weather gets warmer, there’s an expectation that you show more of your body, [which means] your body is less malleable. People want to be like: BOOBS, woman; NO PENIS, woman; SHOULDERS, man. It’s so weird that [people] have to gender me at all. I would probably dress and present even more femme sometimes in the summer except that it would subject me to more street harassment. So that’s the terrain that I’m exploring right now through fashion: how to be fashionable and non-binary in warm weather.”
So explore that we did.
We started with this Rebecca de Ravenel coat and pants because they’re what Meredith gravitated toward first.
“It was the first thing I wanted to wear just because I loved how oversized and puffy it was,” they said later over email, “and of course the pattern was fabulous. I also like not wearing anything underneath the jacket.”
I’ve seen Meredith appear before a few step-and-repeats since following them on Instagram; this felt like a sophisticated, visually interesting evening “suit” alternative should they have another event coming up.
A figuratively and literally cool pajama set was my idea for Meredith’s every-day-in-the-summer-wear. Personally, this is all I want to put on when it’s hot, but also, it felt like the answer to another style “problem” Meredith posed during our first phone call: that sometimes they wanted to dress “elegantly masculine,” but summer weather made it difficult for them to do so and be comfortable.
Later, Meredith told me the striped PJ set was a win. “[W]earing it would solve a lot of my daily wear problems, honestly. I want to buy it in at least two, possibly three, color combinations if they’re available!”
Next up, an outfit for Meredith to wear out to dinner, or to the office, or anywhere cowboy boots feel mandatory. After I fell in love with the color, I realized I really liked that both the top and the skirt were tailored, but not skin-tight.
“I love the boldness of both pieces together and how the boots make the whole outfit less expected and not overly femme,” Meredith wrote.
For the final look, an airy, flowy summer dress — the kind of thing that everyone who lives in New York City during peak humidity needs.
“I really like the silhouette of the pink dress,” wrote Meredith. “[As] I’ve become more gender-nonconforming I’m less interested in ‘flattering’ shapes, which is often code for ‘attractive to straight men.’ So I’ve been enjoying these not-fitted-but-still-fabulous silhouettes.”
And with that, we wrapped a shoot that set out to challenge two things: stifling gender norms when it comes to fashion, and stifling summer heat. Up next, perhaps: how to do this once the weather transition from summer to fall begins…but until then, what’s your biggest summer style focus?