I remember the last time I wore a poncho thinking it was chic. It was pink with fringe back in 5th grade (2001), when little Amanda was trying to figure out her style.
After my strict tomboyish years, I decided to try and fit in and be more of a “girl” after a “cool girl” and her cronies ambushed me during recess asking if I was gay. I was so sheltered, I had no idea what that word meant. The gal’s perceived evidence for asking me (very loudly) was that I dressed more boyish than girlish. I also kept mum about the boys I liked; as someone who had been bullied, I trusted very few. (Though I did have 4 boyfriends in 4th grade and bravely kissed one on the cheek in front of the class outside waiting for our teacher to let us in after recess. Oh, the scandal.) Back then, I thought being too much of a girl was synonymous with being weak or air-headed, as a lot of pop culture (and boys) convinced us back then. Of course this “popular” girl was trying to hurt my feelings rather than inquire, and ridicule me in front of all the rest of the “popular” kids. As that was my first encounter with the word — or concept of — “gay,” it instilled in me great shame for who I was, even if I wasn’t attracted to women in the end. It only took me until middle school to become a gay rights advocate, later becoming an activist because the inequality didn’t make sense at all to me.
That ridicule had an immediate impact on me as I decided to spiral into girldom by shopping at Claire’s and other pink-power places. My mom was thrilled. But it wasn’t me, I wasn’t happy with it. Puberty hit me before almost everyone (undoubtedly due to all the dairy and genetically modified meat I consumed daily — sorry, ma) and felt forced to switch my baggy tees for tighter-fitting tops that showed I had a waistline. This was the time I developed a very secretive eating disorder. Well, it wasn’t so secretive because my teacher made my mom aware of my behavior, who kept tabs on what I ate. Until I went vegan, eating “bad food” was a temporary triumph. Because I actually never became underweight or overweight, it was easy for me to deny the truth to myself.
So along with overcompensating by asserting my femininity, I also thought for years that tight clothes were required to prove I wasn’t “fat.”
As a child developing several disorders, I was an easy target for bullying. Regardless of praise from authorities for being one of few to stand up to notorious playground bullies with logic, I can’t help but think that these disorders were what really kept me down, picking away at myself with uncontrollable insecurity. Apart from these growing problems, I had a great adolescence that included the many wonders of childhood, my parents tying their very best to make it so.
But I wince when I look back at childhood pics where I’m sucking in my stomach past my ribs. Every day, I took a shower when I got home to wash off germs that I swore I felt wriggling on me. I’d cry to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” while secretly shaving my legs, unable to shake off the tauntings from the “cool” kids. When my anxiety was bad, I hid in my closet on a giant pillow with my gameboy attachment that let me play Pokemon in the dark. Or, I’d take a much needed bathroom break — I’ve eaten lunch in a bathroom more than once. I was a master at hide-and-seek because I hid a lot. I wish I could hug and tell little Amanda it will be alright while explaining the importance of feminism and self-love while imparting my current knowledge of disorders to her. It all sounds almost tragically humorous now, but at least — even back then — I was perseverent in improving myself.
The hurdles I’ve overcome and continue to recover from may seem insignificant to most who don’t have these problems, but something apart from knowledge that has helped me is fashion. I may not be all that well all the time on the inside, but I can look good and it will help me feel better — as long as I’m representing myself genuinely. Clothing can be of great comfort — especially if you’re someone like me who’s always cold.
I realized I had to change the way I dress when I started working and going to school in downtown Portland almost every day on a particularly seedy bus. My need to be incognito on that particular bus was paramount, as I would often come home when it was dark and have many run-ins with shady people. So I finally realized that wearing baggy clothing, or at least covering up, was almost essential. Black became a statement of toughness. Wearing less or no makeup has also been an effective deterrent from creepy men, while allowing me to embrace my natural looks. I don’t worry much about attractiveness. I just am. And that feels great. I’m a person; though I identify with women.
My first oversized item of protection was a giant trench coat from Goodwill that had shoulder pads and I called it my “Scully Trench,” which was an important catalyst of my current style. I wasn’t going to let misogynists win — I’ll still be girly if I want, but I’m going to conflict with conventions and be comfortable doing so.
So I decided to try one of the ultimate loose clothing statements: The poncho.
This black Obey poncho is incredibly warm, I almost never take it off because it keeps me so toasty wherever I go. My pink poncho back in the day had nothing on this baby. With the adjustable lined hood and pockets making it extremely functional, what really makes this piece work is its button-up collar. When I’m looking at an investment piece, I think about what thrills me and what doesn’t. The collar is what makes or breaks a poncho. If this had the normal scoop neck (basically the only cut that I see as too common and I try to stay away from) as most poncho designs do, it wouldn’t work for me. This Obey poncho scores major points by being functional with collar choices, controlling warmth. Usually no arm coverage would mean negative points, but this poncho is so warm, added sleeves aren’t even needed in freezing weather as long as I have something long-sleeved on underneath.
Never mind that my thighs are somewhat bare, the skirt’s unique design adds to the volumes being played with in black and white. The faux-suede texture of the over-the-knee boots looks interesting with the poly lines of the skirt and faux woolyness of the poncho. Adding the black beanie helped me achieve an avant-garde look by limiting my hair, along with the Polette metal sunglasses and dark lipstick.
WHAT I WORE: BLACK HOODED PONCHO BY OBEY FROM (A NEW LOCAL FAVE) ADORN♥; BLACK BEANIE FROM DRUGSTORE; METAL FRAMED SUNGLASSES, INTUITION, BY POLETTE EYEWEAR; BLACK LONG SLEEVED TOP SLIT V NECK BY ZEAGOO FROM DRESSLINK; VINTAGE PIECY PLEATED BLACK MINI SKIRT; BLACK CLEATED PLATFORM OVER THE KNEE FAUX SUEDE BOOTS BY RIVER ISLAND.