Tuesday, March 27, 2012

03/27/12 OOTD: Villain

Going out shopping today, which means it's time for another OOTD. Let's do it.

Top: Grey t-shirt from Target, cut up
Vest: Moto vest from Forever 21+
Belt: Oval stretch belt from Torrid
Shorts(!): ??, probably Target
Tights: Levante sheer fantasy stay ups in black
Shoes: Trista studded bootie by Avenue

I thought I'd try a look with shorts today. Shocking, perhaps, but I wanted to show you guys that I think I can rock a pair of shorts freestyle as well. No worries, I'm still a skirt boy, but it's nice to mix it up every once and awhile. I've always liked the shorts, tights, heels look on girls, so I figured why not try it myself. I think it works, but I also feel the abundance of cool accessories is what's selling it here for me.

I like to cut up my tees. Mrs. Spookshow doesn't love it so much, but I think it just appeals to a goth / punk diy side of myself. Unfortunately, I'm fairly terrible with a pair of scissors (as I'm one of those devilish lefties), so I often just wind up ruining a good shirt. I'm trying to get better with cutting fabric, however, and so this shirt was the result of my practice. Actually, this is the best cut up shirt I've managed to do. In fact, when Mrs. Spookshow saw it she asked where I bought it! I felt that was pretty high praise, actually, and she was surprised to find out that it was just a $3.00 men's shirt that I accidentally bought a few sizes too big. 

The vest is killer, as always. I love it, and I'm sad that I probably won't be able to wear it for much longer, as it's starting to heat up here in Florida. I've never been one to really change my style based on the seasons, but sometimes the heat does get too killer for my style. To be honest, I kinda dread the summer months, because I just have so much trouble finding cool stuff to wear in the weather.

Looking through my folder of OOTDs, I was very surprised to find that I haven't really shown these booties much. Despite that, I really like them, so here they are! I really enjoy the studs, and think they really compliment this outfit very well. Rockin!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

03/24/12 OOTD: Shadow

OOTD time! Let's do this.

Shirt: Gift from Mrs. Spookshow
Jacket: Tough cookie jacket from Domino Dollhouse
Skirt: Shadow stripe skirt from Torrid
Tights: Levante sheer fantasy stay ups in black
Shoes: Portia bootine from Payless

I just wasn't able to work this skirt into Fashion Freedom February, and as such it wound up in my sell pile. However, I just couldn't let it go, as I like the style of it a lot, even if I haven't figured out how to rock it. Well, that was until today anyways. I'm really happy with how this outfit turned out.

This outfit came to me with a bit of inspiration from my February 1st OOTD, paired with a totally kickass jacket from Domino Dollhouse. I've been wanting to get another photo in this jacket before it gets too hot to wear it here, as my last OOTD featuring it, while really awesome too, didn't have the best photo because of how dreary a day it was. Have I mentioned I love this jacket?! <3 Domino Dollhouse!

In case you find yourself wondering what seems different about this OOTD, I guess I should point out that I shaved my face. Not completely, but I just wanted to try something different. It happens every once and awhile. Honestly, I find I need to shave the beard every few months, otherwise my face underneath can just get really itchy and broken out (yes, I shower!). I had the same issue with my head, which is part of why I keep it shaved now. Anyways, I don't get too attached to my facial hair, so I tend to change it up whenever the urge strikes. It grows fast, so it's no big deal really.

A whole paragraph about shaving my face ... wow *yawn* Let's throw in another picture to end this post with some style, eh?

Boys in Dresses: But Isn't That Gay?

I've had this topic on my mind for a while now as something I want to cover, but I've been delaying the writing of it for reasons unknown. Today, however, my mind was spurred into action by a comment on another blog I was reading ...

We all know that lesbians never wear skirts, and no straight woman would ever be caught dead in a pair of pants! Amirite?

Despite the comical value of such a sweeping generalization (not to mention an obvious troll comment), this still brings to light an interesting topic. For whatever reason, there is still a quite prevalent social perception that men who do feminine things must be gay. Now, the purpose of this blog has always been to separate social perceptions and prejudices from reality, and in turn destroy them, thusly both empowering and encouraging people to just be themselves. Let's get into this, shall we?

When I started down this whole fashion freedom path, the first question that Mrs. Spookshow asked me was, "Are you gay?" I was truly taken aback by this, but could understand where she was coming from. Since birth, most of us have been told at some point or another that boys like to (and should) do certain things, and girls like to (and should) do certain things, and to deviate from these standards is wrong and weird (and that if you do, you are probably gay). Now, women have managed to shrug off some of these assumptions over the years (though they haven't broken free entirely), but largely it seems that men have been left with a very small box to exist within. 

It's important to note that this starts from a very young age, and though most often seen and thought of through playground bullying, it often goes much further than just that. Boys who don't like sports, roughhousing, or playing soldier can often face ridicule and abuse from parents as well as children. For people who deviate from the "norms", there's often an immense social pressure from a very young age to fit in, to not go against the herd. Before I talk about why this is, I want to talk about some of my personal experiences.

I was fortunate when growing up, as my parents often told me to not be afraid to be myself and make my own course. On a broad and simple level, I think they mostly told me this to try to keep me out of trouble from peer pressure (falling in with a bad crowd just to be cool, smoking, drugs, ect). I've got a bit of a joke with myself in thinking that my parents probably didn't have their son wearing dresses in mind when they told me this so often growing up, but hey, ha! Now, I've made some choices that my parents haven't always agreed with or even liked, but they've always stood by me, and I absolutely realize how lucky I am to have that support. This goes to the reason I have this blog ... I want to sort of "pay it forward", so to speak, and offer my support to people who may not otherwise have a stable support base at home, and try to give them the courage to be themselves through example.

So why do I think there is a social pressure to fit people into neat little boxes of behavior and likes based on gender? I think it ultimately comes down to fear of the unknown. I think there's a deep seated human desire to understand everything and to fit it all into categories. When we are presented with things we may not understand (but can't be bothered to really think about), it's simply easier to just toss it into a preexisting category and move on. I think the line of thinking (usually subconscious) goes as such:

Boy like girls. Girls like boys. All boys like boy things. All girls like girl things. Boys that like girl things must want to be girls. Boys that like girl things must like boys.

If you've stuck with me this far, I don't need to tell you that these types of sweeping generalizations are tragic. It really disappoints me, though, that for a lot of people the above thought process makes more sense (and is preferable) to the simple thought that all people are different, and that's great.

So I can see then, quite easily, following the former thought process (that, again, has probably been somewhat subconsciously enforced in most of us from a young age) why there seems to be a mental connection between boys in dresses and being gay. However, there is not a substantial link between sexuality and gender. The two things are just not related. 

Clothing will always be used as a language in our society. It can communicate everything from status, rank, wealth, and opinions. So my point here isn't that that is going to change, because it isn't. What I'm working towards here is a redefinition of what certain sartorial choices say. Putting on a dress doesn't make you gay, and being gay doesn't make you want to put on a dress. 

A lot of my essays seem to focus on masculinity and femininity, and what I feel their role should be in defining us, and it seems that this essay is no exception. The entire point of this essay is just to say that masculinity and femininity are not (and should not be) linked to sexuality. Just as our gender should not define who we are, our sexuality should not either. We are all a collection of likes, dislikes, traits, thoughts, and feelings, and no two people are exactly alike. That should be celebrated, not discouraged. What I'm trying to say is, just don't be so quick to judge, nor so eager to put people into categories. That includes yourself.

Be you. Own it, love it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Free-For-All I

Sometime during the Fashion Freedom February event, I got struck with an idea for a new series of posts. I thought it might be fun to show two outfits with a similar vibe, but from completely different departments, side by side. Here we go with photo number one in this new series!

When I originally got the idea for this series, I thought I might have some trouble coming up with the "masculine" side outfits, as I just don't have a large selection of clothes there. However, this photo came together pretty easily, with a red and black theme. The photo on the left is actually pretty close to the style I used to wear before expanding my wardrobe to include skirts & dresses, just a simple tee & jeans combo with boots. I gotta confess, I couldn't get those jeans off fast enough after taking this photo, ha! After my month in skirts & dresses they just felt so bizarre and uncomfortable! I'm not entirely sure that pants have much place in my wardrobe anymore.

I really like the outfit on the right, and think it turned out pretty cool. It's all pretty much remix'd from last months OOTDs, except for the top, which was made for me recently by Mrs. Spookshow. It's the same style top as the black one in this OOTD, except in red. Anyways, it's a fun outfit that I think captures the feel and shares some synergy with the "masculine" outfit on the left. More so than just dress-up, though, it's an outfit that I totally wear, as is every outfit that I post here.

Be sure to leave your comments below, and let me know what you think about this new series. I wish I could say I have some profound purpose for doing this series, but truthfully I don't, I just thought it might be fun to see. As such, I'm really curious to know what you guys think and how it makes you feel.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity by Alex Drummond

I came across this book through a post on Genderfork.com, and upon seeing the cover immediately identified with the author. I promptly purchased the Kindle version of this book and read through it over the next couple of days. This is my first shot at doing any sort of book review, but hopefully I can communicate my thoughts about it with some manner of eloquence.

They say to never judge a book by it's cover, but for a moment here I want to do exactly that. The cover to this book works amazingly well for presenting a summary of what will be found inside. Though it's a subtle detail, I love the use of blue and pink in the title, it feels very thoughful. The photo of the author is both eye-catching and very informative, as although his outfit could certainly be classed as "girly", his beard and lack of any fake parts or padding tell us that this isn't just going to be a book about traditional cross-dressing. Personally, I didn't really need to look any further than this cover to know I was interested in reading what he had to say.

The book starts with a preface, wherein the author both outlines what he hopes to accomplish with the book and tries to familiarize readers with the terms & ideas within. It's very successful in easing us into the language of the book, and it was very helpful to know just what the intentions in writing this book were before diving in. This book, ultimately, is about exploring the space between genders, looking outside the traditional male / female binary. It's about recognizing that gender presentation does not have to be so rigid, and that we should strive to be ourselves, not just some caricature of male or female that is often times forced upon us.

The book is dividing into two sections, "Doing Transgender" and "Transgender Theory". The first section, "Doing Transgender", is an account of Alex's personal journey of self-discovery, starting all the way from childhood up to his current happenings. I found this section extremely fascinating, as I was really able to relate to a lot of the situations and feelings the author shared. The doubts, fears, and concerns that Alex shared in this book are things that all who break the gender binary have felt at some point, so getting a look into his life and reading about how he overcame it all to discover and ultimately become himself was both inspiring and helpful. This particular section of the book was my favorite part, as I love to hear about how others found their courage and spread their own wings. I highly recommend purchasing this book just for this section alone.

The second section, "Transgender Theory", is an academic look at transgender topics. It can get a bit heady at times (as the author warns), but he succeeds in finding a way to communicate the ideas in a way that should be accessible to all. The section covers a lot of ground, focusing on both historical conceptualizations and contemporary ideas and scientific theory behind transgender identities, and how our current understanding of said identities is still developing. This chapter goes a long way in explaining just how far we've both come and still need to go in gaining understanding and acceptance of transgender identities as a society. The section is a lot to take in, but it's very informative and helpful for understanding how we can help to break the gender binaries and inspire people to be themselves and to accept others.

Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity is a compelling, thought-provoking book for not just those interested in transgender topics, but for any reader. This is a book that anyone could read and gain a much better understanding of an often misunderstood and at times maligned segment of our society. Alex Drummond's story of self-discovery and acceptance is heartfelt and important, and I highly recommend giving this book a read.

You can find Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Additionally, Alex Drummond has a personal blog which you can find here, and he is also on Twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

03/13/12 OOTD: Iron

Thirteen days since my last OOTD. How's that for luck? Let's do this.

Dress: Merona woven dress from Target
Top: Woven looped top from Forever 21+
Belt: Faux feather belt from Forever 21+
Tights: Charnos opaque 60 denier thick tights in black
Shoes: Mia flamenco wedge pump from DSW

This is the same dress as in OOTD: Luster from February, just in a different color. I've had such great luck with dresses from Target, that often when I see a style I like I feel comfortable enough to order it in more than one color. This red is a little bit paler than I thought it would be, and to be honest I wasn't sure how I felt about it. 

Then I got this awesome top! When I ordered it, I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with it. I just wasn't sure what would work under it, but I knew that I definitely wanted it, ha! As I was trying it with different items from my closet, it struck me that it might look quite cool over this dress. I love it, and I actually think I like the color of the dress now, at least as long as it's workin' with the black weave here.

I decided to throw this belt into the mix, because I like it. As I've said before, I often have trouble deciding when to belt or not belt a look. It's interesting how much a simple thing like a belt can completely change an outfit dynamic. I thought it looked better with the belt here, so I rocked it.

It occurred to me that I don't think I've ever really shown this angle on the blog. It's not the greatest picture, but I wanted to include it here nonetheless as I felt comfortable enough to do so. It kinda felt like cheating to just have front shots all the time, as people who see me in real life can get all sorts of angles, and I wanted that to be represented here as well. Also, I thought my legs looked good here, ha!

Opaque black tights have really grown on me. Until recently I've never been a huge fan of the look, largely preferring sheer tights to opaques. I think I finally get it, though, naturally just as it's starting to heat up here in Florida, ha! I wasn't sure about repeating the same shoes as in my last OOTD, but they are awesome and I wanted to rock them out today. Can you blame me? I'm really surprised how comfortable they are, especially given the 5 inch heel. Wowza!

I'm really happy with how this look came together. Coming out of Fashion Freedom February and all those OOTDs, honestly I was a bit down on dresses. It was refreshing today to discover how layering different tops & such over them can create such a unique look. I'm currently venturing into the world of layered tops & cardigans, and I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with that.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Wife's Perspective on Men's Fashion Freedom

Hello all, Mrs. Spookshow here. I am writing this to address some questions and other things I think others might want to know about being the wife of a man in a dress. [And this is Michael Spookshow, adding my commentary throughout.]

Mrs. Spookshow, taken moments after I proposed to her. Yes, I carved "Will you marry me?" into a plastic pumpkin.
First, yes, Mr. Spookshow and I are married and live a life typical of that. I have had some friends look at me askance after seeing pictures of  my husband's fashion choices online. I have fielded questions from them ranging from simple to borderline offensive. I take all of this to heart so much more than Michael Spookshow. He truly lives the motto of be who you are, no matter what others think of you. This makes me so very proud, and I wish I could be more like that myself. 

I often feel I should protect him even though he doesn't need it. There are times we have been out in public and I have shielded him from a jerk sneering and trying to take a pic with his phone or from others that don’t even try to hide their laughing and pointing. [I spoke briefly on this situation here.] I look forward to the day when he can wear what he wants and no one is rude. We all have our own style; why should it be limited by what department it's sold in?

That being said, to be honest it took me a little bit to warm to the skirt and dress thing. I think that was mainly because I have had men I have dated in the past that turned out to be gay. There's nothing wrong with that, but it was a bit of a shock to the system. I had a conversation early on with Michael, however, and he assured me that he has absolutely no interest in men. [It's true, hell I don't even like men's clothes, ha!] Since he has never been anything but completely honest with me, I have taken him at his word. [The ingrained (and often erroneous) mental connection between men wearing skirts and being gay is something I want to talk about in an essay soon. Thanks for the inspiration, Mrs. Spookshow!

It took a bit of an adjustment period, but eventually I saw that I could help him in his quest for fashion freedom. Most women’s dresses & tops simply aren't made to fit men, but being a seamstress and costume designer I knew I could help there! [Mrs. Spookshow has been an awesome help, just check out this photo!

This dress was made for me by Mrs. Spookshow. She altered the pattern to fit my male body shape.
I have had pretty good success so far in adapting things to fit his body shape. The main area for modification on women's garments to fit a man has been the bust area. Whereas most women wish to accentuate this area, for him we want to detract. The other area of focus has been the hips, some because he is a guy (and thus has a smaller waist to hips ratio than most women) and some due the fact he is plus size. Speaking of ...

One awesome aspect of having a husband who wears skirts & dresses (and who is pretty close to my size) is that I get to share his clothes! [There's a lot of jealous girls on Tumblr now, ha!] Of course, he could share mine if he wished but I am a little smaller and my job pretty much entails jeans and a tee shirt by necessity, so that's what I tend to wear. So, more often than not I borrow his clothes, especially if we are dressing up to go out on a date!

Taken before we went to dinner for our second anniversary! Coincidentally, this dress is actually hers, though, ha!
If you'd like to reach Mrs. Spookshow, you can leave a comment for her below or you can email her at hisblackdress@gmail.com and I will make sure she sees & replies.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

February Event Wrap-Up

The February event was a huge success for His Black Dress. I had a lot of fun, got a lot of support, and gained a lot of readers. I'm very appreciative of all of these things! I'll be honest, I wasn't exactly sure what sort of response I would get (if any) when I decided to do the event, and I was deeply surprised with the results. 

I had three goals in mind when I came up with the idea for the event, the first of which was celebration of my personal style revolution. My life has been so enriched since I decided to embrace fashion freedom, to wear what I want when I want, to be myself. It's hard to describe, but there's definitely a feeling of completeness and serenity in knowing that I am unashamedly me. The event was meant to be a full expression of this, and I think it succeeded in this regard. I am so proud of every look I have posted here.

The second goal was to gain experience in skirts & dresses in everyday life. Prior to the event, even though I would often wear a skirt or dress if I was going out, I'd often spend a lot of my around the house time just lazily dressed in shorts & a tee. I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with that, but I wanted to try to break that lazy fashion habit and see how it affected my life. Nothing too exciting really happened with this thought, although I do feel like perhaps I was a bit more happy with myself and had a better outlook during the lazy days because of my style. I think it balanced out a bit though, as I did wind up with a few "lazy, around the house" skirts that basically just replaced the shorts. Same function really, just a lot more comfortable. At the very least, I suppose that's a win too.

The third goal was to gain insight into my closet, to learn more about fashion and my personal style. I think the OOTDs will speak for themselves here, and I'll just say it was a huge success. I learned a lot about the versatility of my closet, although the biggest addition that came from this was an appreciation for accessories. I was really surprised at how a necklace could help to pull an outfit together. Jewelry is definitely on my radar going forward, as it was really fun to try to pick complimentary pieces with my outfits. Moving forward, there will have to be a lot of wardrobe remixing, as I nearly showed every skirt & dress I have. I think I only had 3 dresses that were not photographed! Hopefully, I can take the things I've learned about fashion from the event and apply them through some interesting remixing. 

When I decided to pack away the pants for a month and wear only skirts & dresses, my appreciation for pants was already very low. I was interested to see whether or not being without them for a month would change my mind at all. Would I miss bifurcated garments? Well, it turned out the answer is no. Even though I was already deeply sold on the awesomeness of skirts before I wore them for a month straight, it turns out that now I'm even more in love with them. I'm not going to unpacking the pants. I'll probably pull out one or two pairs of shorts for occasional wear, but largely it's just skirts & dresses for this boy from now on. Sorry pants, it's time for men to rock skirts!

I want to take a moment here to say thank you so very much to everyone who has offered me words of support & encouragement here. I truly appreciate it. Thank you for allowing this boy to share his unique fashion with you. I look forward to continuing to share my take on style with you! I think it's time to up the sartorial ante. Let's rock it out!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What's Next?

Just wanted to give a quick update on what's coming up. At some point during February, Mrs. Spookshow asked if she could write a post here. I thought it was a great idea, and am excited about her involvement. We think it could be interesting, insightful, and helpful to have some thoughts here written by someone who loves a man into freestyle fashion. She should be sitting down to write than either today or tomorrow, so look for that article soon.

Mrs. Spookshow & I have also been playing around with the idea of doing a Switcheroo inspired photo, because we think it would be fun. However, unlike the original photos in the set, I'm thinking that I should be the one to start in a skirt / dress, since I'm usually wearing a skirt and she usually wears pants, ha!

I've also been toying with the idea of doing some photos where I wear a completely "masculine" outfit next to similar but entirely "feminine" outfit. I think it could be interesting to see two outfits with the same vibe, but from different departments, side by side. The only issue here is that I don't actually have much menswear that isn't just grubby workshop/painting clothes. Anyhow, I think it could be a really cool series if I can manage to pull it off.

I'll also have some essays coming up that focus on men's health as it relates to fashion freedom. I'll try to cover both the benefits and complications of wearing skirts, tights, & heels from a male perspective.

As I said towards the end of the last February OOTD, Scorch, I'd really like to know what you, the readers, would like to see here on the blog moving forward. I really want to push forward with more bold content and keep growing the blog. Let me know if you have any ideas about topics or things that you would like to see. Which of the above ideas interest you the most? Leave a comment below or email me at hisblackdress@gmail.com.

I look forward to serving up more interesting content soon, so thanks for reading His Black Dress!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fashion Freedom February OOTDs Video

I've made a video showcasing my OOTDs from February. Check it out below!

(Note: This embedded video does not force HD, so you'll need to change the quality by clicking the cog symbol for better viewing. Sorry for any inconvenience but I could not get it to do otherwise without sacrificing some functionality. Thanks!)

I've also uploaded this video on my Tumblr, so if you follow me there I'd appreciate if you'd like and/or share it on Tumblr, please. Let's get the word out about men wearing skirts & dresses as everyday fashion! You can find the Tumblr video post here.