Dressing up isn't really for nerds

On the morning of Lady Gaga’s second recent Vancouver performance, as I waited for my curls to set and my nails to dry, I cruised my Tumblr dashboard and found a surprisingly relevant post from a good friend of mine. It said (or rather snarled, for faceless words are always subject to your own emotional projection), “Why do people dress up to go to Lady Gaga? It ends up looking like bad cosplay. Where’s your anime convention?”

Now, I love this friend and I think he loves me, so I didn’t take it too personally, but it did get me thinking about the idea of dress up. It seems that these days – and in Vancouver especially – the idea of dress up is not only rare but also somewhat offensive. There are precious few opportunities in a year when wearing something outrageous out in the open is acceptable. I would cite Halloween, Pride Week and Canada Day as the big ones (although the latter comes with its own set of parameters). So if you're the kind of person that treasures these opportunities, then concerts, conventions and theme parties are also all valid excuses to be ridiculous or glamorous, whichever you prefer.

But why do we need an excuse at all? We shouldn’t have to defend putting more than average effort into dressing ourselves, and yet justification for dressing up is constantly demanded. These days, it's much more acceptable to be dressed down. Have you ever gone grocery shopping in your pajamas? I have. And while they most certainly would have had reason to, no one has ever asked me to explain leaving the house looking so sloppy.

Yet we are judged constantly for pushing boundaries of what is perceived to be acceptable or “normal” in our community. Outrageous women are often whispered about for being “too [fat/ugly/old/etc.] for that outfit” and outrageous men are over and over again being called “fag,” a word which, besides being incredibly tiresome, means little more these days than, “I acknowledge that you are different than me and I don’t know how to react.”

This is not to say that everyone is getting lazy with their clothing. Even in Vancouver, a city notorious for Gore-Tex and fitness-wear-as-every-day-wear, there are some who challenge the dress-down rule. I had the pleasure of sharing my “Gaga experience” with two such people:
Misty Greer is a fashion designer and burlesque darling who is rarely seen in an outfit that doesn’t include either lamé or sequins or both. An inspiration to me and I’m sure many others, Misty’s attitude towards dress up can be summed up by the tag line for her clothing line, Trunk Show: “Clothing for those who prefer to be the spectacle, not just the spectator.”

Friend and fellow Courier columnist JJ Brewis will attach anything and everything to his body in order to transform himself into a walking concept piece. Getting dressed together before the show, it was astounding to turn around every so often and see him with another layer of carefully applied embellishments – gold studs, fake birds, white body paint and feathers aplenty. I think the only thing he didn't wear out was a pair of pants.

But taking pride in our appearance, be it for a theatrical reasons or just merely a desire to look your best, is an important part of being human, or of being alive. I learned the truth of this earlier in the summer, when I found myself thousands of miles away from home, in a foreign city with no friends and a huge language barrier which prevented me from making new ones. Feeling isolated and insignificant, I found comfort in my closet and tried to make an effort to dress well every time I left the apartment, even if it was to do something mundane like buy milk. Wearing heels to the grocery store made me feel that, even if no one knew my name, my clothing communicated to the rest of the world that I was someone important, and far from invisible.
Whether we're dressing up for a specific event or just because we need an ego boost, let’s try harder to push the boundaries a little. And let’s try harder to be supportive of others who bravely go out in public wearing something outrageous, even if we suspect they might be doing it just for the attention – because, really, we all deserve a little attention now and then.

//Kala Vilches

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