When I started this frock-wearing malarkey in a bid to raise money for ovarian cancer research (see side panel) I promised a blog post or two on how I was going with it all. It's been 13 days now, and although I probably had enough material for a post before now, something rammed this all home to me yesterday and so it's kicked me into action. Plus I am sitting at home on a Saturday night by myself and not dancing somewhere so I may as bloody well! Anyway...
I know people are wondering whether this has all been as terrible as I anticipated it would be and whinged about in the weeks leading up to it all. I can say, without a moment's hesitation that indeed it has. And at times it hasn't. But mostly it has. You see, for other people putting on a frock is not a big deal. Hell, it's not even a deal. It's just a thing. I though have found it everything from uncomfortable to painful to confronting (both positive and negative in that respect) and whilst part of this is probably down to my "childhood traumas" or the fact that I do possibly, maybe, potentially, over-analyse stuff perhaps a just little (...?) some of it is clearly not.
Firstly, the mechanics of dress-wearing. I have gotten incredibly used to sitting however the sod is most comfortable over the years. This includes lotus positions on office chairs, feet propped up on boxes under my desk, seat back reclined as far as I like; the works really. Now, ignoring what is clearly my blatant disregard for OHS legislation despite my career choices, the key factor here has been comfort. I move freely into positions that I find comfortable as I need to.
I haven't been able to do this now for the past two weeks. Gone is the lotus position as I find myself sitting feet planted on the floor or one leg slung over the other as I attempt to preserve modesty in restrictive short garments. Slouching is out too, particularly off to one side (I tend to favour my left) because things might ride up and we simply can't have that. I feel less self-conscious in full-length dresses or when wearing thick hosiery because I do gain some more freedom in movement when wearing those. On my worst day thusfar (which, ironically, I think as far as frocked up feminine impersonators goes I actually looked my best), I was wearing a short, form-fitting bluish-purple number. The cut was flattering on me, but it was a particularly difficult day because due to the form-fitting nature of it, my movement was more restricted than it had been on any other day. My shoelace came undone whilst walking down the street, and rather than just crouch down and do it up again, I had to duck down a side street and discretely go about the operation so I didn't "flash" anyone. At the end of the day, I was suffering from back pain due to the rigid way I had to sit so the hem didn't advance too high, and my shoulder was killing because the dress required I wear a proper bra for a change.
Walking has changed too. The length of my gait is reduced in shorter and/or tighter numbers and/or if I am wearing certain shoes to go with the outfit (usually I pick whichever Docs match my mood that day, but now I'm trying to "match"). I don't like that one bit! I have turned into one of those annoying slow walkers on the footpath and it bugs me. I also can't run up the stairs most days. So I can't sit and walk how I like, and I have had to pair outfits up with other clothing items that cause discomfort. Yep, I have been whinging.
The next part of this I am not entirely sure of how to frame, so perhaps what I will do is first refer people back to my post on Miss NAIDOC to gain some insight into how I may react to attention on my appearance, and then push forward. Wearing a dress, or probably more accurately changing your appearance dramatically, does return commentary from others on your appearance and if I am honest, it's commentary which I am never mentally prepared for. It is a huge thing for me to not only dress in clothing that makes me feel uncomfortable AND that also shows off bits of my body that rarely see the light of day, but also to parade around in it all day AND post pictures of this for public viewing. People comment, and they mainly compliment, and for someone who has actively deflected commentary about their appearance for years, this is quite intimidating. I knew it would be, and hence why I took up this challenge for a good cause, but still I am finding that tough.
Indeed, I have been most comfortable when people have laughed at my effort of the day. Floral frocks have had that effect more than any other type because pairing my personality with a floral print is a mismatch I readily acknowledge. So when people have laughed at that mismatch, I have been able to laugh too and it has made the experience more fun. I have also had comments on my legs, and therein lies "childhood trauma #1". I found out that my legs were an "asset" (whatever the sod that is) back in high school when I got some uninvited commentary on my calf muscles. It was also fairly common to hear "nice legs, shame about the face" in the family home growing up. So when deflecting commentary on my appearance, they were the first thing to go. I therefore didn't greatly appreciate it the other day when I noticed a bloke turn around after I walked past him and gawp at them. Indeed, I was absolutely fuming. As I mentioned earlier, I think it comes as no surprise then that full-length and thick hosiery have been where I have been most comfortable. But it's also the least challenging for me and I didn't take on this fundraising effort to simply cruise through it.
People have been incredibly complimentary most of the time where they have made comments. I don't think I have ever had so many people say so many things about my appearance in such a short time. As you can see though, since I have issues dealing with commentary about my appearance even when it is genuine, encouraging, positive and flattering, I deal even less well when I get negative comments. This happened yesterday and it hurt like hell. Long story short, I was accused of "attention seeking" because I posted a picture of myself in my daily frock on Facebook. The person who made the comment had missed all the posts I had made about my fundraising effort, my previous blog post and all my other photos and so was unaware that I was doing this for a good cause. It made me wonder what someone has to do because I am here trying in my own way to make a little bit of a difference for other women, and have committed to doing something that I find quite confronting in order to make this difference, and yet still it can be seen in such a light. I have had to adopt false confidence and channel some of my staunchness in other ways in order to undertake this activity, so perhaps the comment misread those traits and reacted to them. I don't know, but it did serve as a reminder to me that putting yourself out there is always a risk, and that despite many gains I have made over the years in different ways to better handle that negative feedback in some areas, I have a long way to go when it comes to others.
So, all that whinging aside now; what have I enjoyed about undertaking Frocktober? Well for one, there has been the encouragement and support from others. Thanks to a bunch of wonderful people making a shed load of donations, I am currently #4 on the top fundraisers list! I can't thank you enough for your support. I have also enjoyed playing around with colours. By way of explanation, I have always been a bit of a magpie when it comes to colours and tend to gather up bright primaries and secondaries as opposed to muted tones and pastels, and so I have actually had a bit of fun finding some outrageously-coloured frocks and just going with it. Also, as people have helped me raise money for ovarian cancer research, I have also in turn managed to donate to a number of other charities as any dresses I have not previously owned or borrowed from someone, I have picked up from opportunity shops. This means that I have plugged money back into diabetes research, Scope and the Salvos. I think the best of all of this though have been the amazing women who have gone through their wardrobes and offered me frocks to wear for the cause. There is something incredibly special about women supporting other women for community betterment that I wish I could just bottle and that reminds me only too well why I am such a committed feminist in the first place. So a special thanks to those who have done this. I think you're amazing.
'til next time...