As a girl, I was always told to "cover up." Shirts should have sleeves, cleavage shouldn't peak out, dresses should reach the knees, and makeup shouldn't be "too much." If my clothes fit me a certain way, I would be inviting people to basically attack me and anything that happens would be my fault. Because "boys will be boys," and that means it's in their DNA to gawk at pretty girls.
And even with me being called "chubby," or "thick," or "closed off," and "unapproachable," that still applied to me. I was a "pretty girl" and therefore a target if my shoulders were out. When you're twelve or fifteen, it feels like a protocol. It's the way it is and covering up is for your own good.
And all through high school, I followed the rules. I didn't dress even remotely provocatively out of fear. I was comfortable with being more reserved. I had confidence without being prudish, and I felt secure. But in time, I realized that even though my loved ones may have been just trying to keep me safe, they were victim blaming. People were telling me that if something bad happened to me, it would be my fault for dressing a certain way. But they weren't preparing me for the real fear: sexual assault
I finally realized I would never be at fault for being assaulted, God forbid it'd ever happen. It's completely out of my hands. The fear of showing my shoulders of thighs wasn't something to fear at all. Predators don't walk around with a checklist with requirements we need to meet in order to be a target.
And no one was going to tell me "you can't wear that," or deceive me by telling me I was "asking for it." So I bought a dress that was more revealing than anything I'd ever worn. It wasn't like the cute sundresses I always wore before. It was lowcut and short and when I clicked the "submit order" button, I felt like I'd done something bad. I felt all the words of assistant principals and aunts and grandmothers and my dad. It hung in my closet for months and collected dust with all the shorts I decided I was too tall to wear and tops that showed too much skin.
Then I decided to wear it on my 19th birthday. I knew I'd be with people I was comfortable around and just their presence would make me feel safe. The way I dressed would never matter, but especially not on my night. And it felt so good. I was a new kind of confident and I loved my body in a way I hadn't before. Because in all honesty, I didn't love it much. And the last thing I needed was another reason not to love my body. I was convinced it wasn't good for much more than tempting pervy men. Not to mention, I wasn't really worried about making myself look good as much as I was staying on guard.
I regained so much confidence. The kind of confidence you have when you're five and dress yourself for the first time and you feel fabulous with the plethora of patterns and colors you've chosen. No one was holding me back. I just broke the fear that people would be watching. Because they're not, they're too worried about themselves.
If it's hot, I wear less. If I'm feeling good about the way I look, I'll wear less. If I'm in a mood where wearing too much is going to annoy me, I'll wear less. And if anyone thinks my clothes, or my lack thereof, have to do with anything other than that, that's their problem.
Getting dressed in the morning shouldn't be something any girl is convinced will be a nightmare. Or clothes aren't supposed to be the monsters in our closets we were afraid of.