Meet Hilary. She’s my sweater pusher. Which is to say that in addition to being my friend, she owns a store, If the Shoe Fits, and when things come in that she thinks I might be interested in, she emails me. She’s also well aware that when it comes to sweaters, I am always interested. The day I am not interested in sweaters is the day they will be carrying me out of my house in a pine box...and I’d better be wearing a sweater or I am going to have some serious haunting to do.
Can I tell you how much I love sweater season? Because, oh my stars, people, I love sweater season. I love sweater season so much that several times a year, I think about moving to Antarctica, where it would be sweater season all year round, and there would be penguins, so it is pretty much a win-win. Sweaters. Penguins. The occasional scarf, because I hear they’re pretty serious about winter down there, and sometimes scarves are necessary. But no hats, because it is a universally known fact that I look like a giant penis when I wear hats.1
So anyway. Yes. Sweater season. It is my favourite time of the year, and it is rapidly approaching, just as soon as the weather here finishes with this "warm sunny days with perfectly clear blue skies" crap. People, I have sweaters to wear and time’s a-wasting.
I recently pulled them out of storage to do the annual assessment, checking for damage, making sure everyone weathered the cold, dark summer months without me. So far, my sweaters are all looking pretty good, although I am sad to note that one of my favourites of all time now hangs on me like a sack, and not in that hip, artful way where it looks like you meant to do it deliberately, but rather in the "Oh dear, I see you’ve been ill" kind of way.
I spent a long time not really getting sweaters, as a thing, even though my friend Ailish kept insisting that I should wear them. Then she got me a lambswool v-neck, and I was like "how do people not wear sweaters?" She forcibly peeled it from me several months later, informing me that one is allowed to own, and wear, more than one sweater, and I’ve been in love with them ever since.
For several years, I emulated the sweater girl look made oh-so-famous in the 1950s, despite the fact that The Rack didn’t really fit into a bullet bra, and thus I couldn’t quite achieve the perky, brisk lines of Lana Turner; think more "tugboat" and less "sleek yacht."
Sweater season is the point where I just stop caring about whether people approve of my performance of gender, because I love sweaters too darn much to stop wearing them, and I also am really into being warm and snuggly in thick cashmere, wrapped with a scarf just for extras when it’s particularly cold out.
Last year I took the plunge and started getting into sweater dresses, which opened up a whole new fantastic world for me. A sweater. For my whole body. It’s like, my dream come true. Where have you been all my life, sweater dresses? Oh, right, on the rack of things I was told not to wear because they made me look "ugly" or they were too feminising for a proper genderqueer to wear.
Genderqueer people fall outside the gender binary; we are neither male nor female, though we may have traits viewed as masculine or feminine. Other people may also identify outside the binary with a variety of terms to describe their genders, like androgyne and bigender.
Like many people who are not female, but have bodies read as female because of their shape, I struggle with gender expression. The common conception of nonbinary people as a whole is that we all must have masculine traits or "ambiguous" gender and perform gender in masculine ways, a reflection of much larger cultural attitudes about gender and performance which would require a whole separate post (or book) to discuss. Wearing clothes commonly associated with women, like V-neck sweaters that show off the bust, or skirts, or dresses, is viewed as feminising, and is sometimes used to erase our gender; "you look like a woman, and you dress like a woman, so you must be one."
When asked who can wear sweaters, really, the answer is "anyone," because sweaters are freaking awesome, and you can ignore any and all rules about sweater-wearing you may have been raised with. Have you been told not to layer them because it makes you look bulky? Bite your thumb at society and layer away, my friends. Have you been cautioned against horizontal stripes? Rock them, my beauties, because a horizontally striped sweater is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Have you been told to avoid v-necks because they’re "too revealing"? You and your cleavage can be the judge of that.2 Have you been warned against shocking colors? Hey, if you’re in a hot pink mood, go for it.
1This brought about the great "What are you doing?" "Oh, you know, wearing a hat on a ridiculously hot day and fighting with the self timer, trying to prove that I look like a penis when I wear hats and ending up with a series of horrific pictures of myself. So, the usual" incident of 2011. You’re just going to have to trust me when I say that I look like a giant penis when I wear hats, because this fact is indeed universally acknowledged by everyone unfortunate enough to have seen me in one.
2 That said, if you have an oppressive and officious supervisor/human resources person/etc. who frowns at you and mutters about dress codes...for the sake of your continued employment, perhaps v-necks should be an after-hours activity. Fortunately, cowlnecks are pretty awesome too, and provide "appropriate workwear" while not feeling like you are being slowly throttled by an enraged anaconda, as is unfortunately the case with some turtlenecks.