No, My Baggy Clothes Are Not A Defense Mechanism

My authentic attempt to present the truest version of myself has been mistaken for a disguise developed out of fear and untruth.
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Gabrielle Pedriani
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My authentic attempt to present the truest version of myself has been mistaken for a disguise developed out of fear and untruth.

I’m most comfortable when I’m drowning. Swathing myself in excess folds of fabric is my ultimate vice, though I’m hesitant to label it as such. See — it’s been said of me on more than one occasion that my affinity for oversized outfits originates in a deep-rooted fear of social rejection.

The size on this sweater was “3XL.” I’m not wearing pants.

The size on this sweater was “3XL.” I’m not wearing pants.

The theory goes that, were I to dress myself in a more flattering manner, I’d offer a truer version of myself to the world, and thus expose myself for rejection based on qualities aside from my saggy ensembles. According to people who know me, these criticisms would hit too close to home to be bearable. Yep— people think I use my billowing clothes as a crutch for everything and anything.

Cute date doesn’t text me back? It’s because of my gaucho pants.

I get passed over for a promotion at work? It’s because they don’t support my oversized blouses.

Wearing a men’s 3x shirt as a dress is, as I’m told, is the only defense I have against rejection.

Me confidently wearing oversized clothing.

Me confidently wearing oversized clothing.

I get why people think this. Of course, I have insecurities and an innate desire to be accepted (Fun fact: I’m human).

But they're still wrong.

For a good part of my life, in fact, I followed socially acceptable dress codes, “How to dress your body type” blog posts and tips from What Not to Wear’s grey-streaked Stacy. As I got older, I began to feel like adhering to style rules was a bit like wearing a costume to which I couldn’t relate. 

 Why, I’d ask myself, am I letting someone else decide how my clothes are supposed to fit me? 

Slowly, as I was exposed to new designers and senses of style, I began to model my appearance after brands like The Row or Acne. I was drawn to them on a visceral, instinctive level versus an intellectual one. 

For the first time, I began to feel that the way I was dressing was reflective of how I felt inside. I felt confident, in control and ultimately very comfortable.

Embracing this, and taking it to the streets, however, wasn't easy. Growing up in Wisconsin, any style that’s slightly off-kilter is subjected to an extra level of scrutiny. Whenever I felt judged, I’d change back into more socially accepted clothing while feeling like I was selling myself short.

Over time, as my confidence grew and my concern for others’ opinions faded, the way I dressed became an intractable part of my identity — so much so, that to forgo that sense of style in favor of something more “slimming” or body conscious became a disservice to my inner self.

But somehow, my authentic attempt to present the truest version of myself has been mistaken for a disguise developed out of fear and untruth. 

True — I won’t argue with the fact that it is stubborn and slightly self-serving to staunchly oppose any kind of stylistic "blending in," but the decision stems less from being stubborn than it does from an adamance that whatever roles would require that I veer from the fullest version of myself aren’t ones worth filling in the first place.

Feeling comfortable being who I am on the inside, on the outside, was a hard-won accomplishment and I refuse to base my sense of style on a prescribed and socially propounded aesthetic. 

In the end, my preference for all things XXL is less about defending myself against honest critiques, and more about opening myself honestly to worthwhile people. It took me twenty-five years to feel comfortable dressing on the outside in a way that reflects how I feel on the inside. To the few Tinder dates or professional superiors who would prefer I be in a black body-con dress or form-fitting pencil skirt (respectively) — I'm not giving it up anytime soon.