Dress to self-impress

by | May 31, 2024 | Resources & Support | 0 comments

Fashion has been a tool for self-impression for centuries. However, the fashion industry would not be where it is without the influence of the queer community and their contribution towards fashion often goes unnoticed. Pride & Joy speak to the people who embrace the industry and why it’s so important to them.

Has your child ever walked past you, and you’ve thought “what on earth are you wearing?” I can speak for most children when we say that the glaring look from their parents when we wear something a little garish, is all too familiar. 

However, for the queer community, after years of hostility and the inability to fully express themselves, fashion can mean a lot more to them.

It wasn’t that long ago where people could be legally discriminated against for even showing an inkling that they might be queer, from the way they spoke or dressed. 

For Nathan Patrick Bridson, 32 and founder of Ball Management, fashion is a vital tool for him to express his queerness.

He said: “I constantly play with fashion to express  my queerness as I find it extremely liberating to dress how you feel and own it. I find it extremely exciting to get ready for a night out where you can fully express your sexuality in a gay space which I think is really important.”

Although Nathan is proud of his gay identity and embraces fashion as a tool for expression, he has not always had the support that he needed. 

“As a young child my dad did not accept me as gay. It was really heart-breaking and that form of rejection is very hard to deal with as it surfaces in adulthood.”

Despite this rejection, Nathan’s other family members not only embraced his queerness, but his love for fashion which he has upheld since he was a child. 

He added: “My mother was my absolute queen, icon and truly allowed myself from a young age knowing the rejection from my father, to absolute double up on the love as it was extremely important to make sure I knew I was loved and accepted as a young child. 

“She allowed me to wear her heels, I used to dress her for nights out to the pub, go shopping with her which allowed me as a child to know it’s okay to be queer and different, so my mother helped me overcome my rejection which I am forever thankful for as its allowed me to grow into the adult I am today.”

Because of this, Nathan believes that all parents should be encouraging of the fashion choices that their children make.

He said: “Allow your child to fully express themselves as it’s extremely challenging not knowing why you are different at a young age and that comes later in life when you come out which is difficult.  My advice would be throughout childhood let a child be a child and if they want to wear a dress and make up, allow them to.

“Suppressing a child’s queerness can cause trauma and rejection issues in later life causing issues with their own relationships and you want your child to grow up as happy as they possibly can and have a beautiful adulthood.”

For Nathan, fashion is much more about the clothes he wears. For him fashion is about the messages he creates to be bold and make a statement.

“I used to make sure I would wear outfits that no one usually did at that time, so these statement pieces showed my sexuality.

“Now I feel more in tune with masculinity and focus more on Fashion Forward looks. I absolutely love playing with colour and colour blocking is one of my favourite fashion trends.”

Making statements with fashion is nothing new and has actually been used as a tool to push gender boundaries for centuries.

For hundreds of years men have been wearing women’s clothes. Queer fashion has been ingrained in our society for centuries. In fact the term ‘drag’ is thought to have originated during Shakespeare’s time. If you want to read more about the history and impact of queer fashion, click here.

Now, drag culture has taken over mainstream media and has had a major influence over fashion and gender boundaries. Drag looks not only push gender but are often used as a political or social statement. 

For Jacob Mallinson Bird, 30, his alter ego, Dinah Lux is a way for him to both express Jacob’s queerness and a break from his academic lifestyle, as a lecturer in music at Cambridge University.

He said: “Dinah is an extension of me, rather than something different. I’ve always loved that curious self-alienation of drag.”

Dinah’s style is sexy, camp and extravagant, opting for corsets and extravagant wigs to create this 1920’s doll-like figure. However sometimes Jacob believes that his masculinity is often more of a performance than Dinah.

“I used to really struggle with gender. But now I understand that I don’t exist on one side, but at a point I am in the middle.”

For Jacob, drag is a place where he can explore gender boundaries and not feel trapped in a particular label. However, he is one of the lucky ones who are supported by their family to express himself.

“I remember the first time my mum saw me in drag in person on Mother’s Day when I did a talk. It was very special because everyone absolutely loved it.”

Jacob’s family are so supportive that he was given the opportunity to perform in drag at his Grandma’s birthday party. 

“I arrived in drag to this golf club in Romford surrounded by all my Nan’s 80 year old friends who were very confused. But my Nan did have quite bad Alzheimer’s and didn’t really notice me in drag and she pulled out the lyrics to the song and asked if anyone would sing it.

“And then we did it and she got up and she was singing and dancing. It was just so cute. It’s very much one of my favourite memories ever. It was amazing and such an incredible day. 

“She was always my biggest supporter in many ways. But she was also crazy in many ways. Hence Patricia the Stripper being played at her 80th birthday.”

At the end of the day, what your child wears will have little to no impact on you. However, not allowing them to express themselves can be detrimental to their mental health and their relationship with you.

If your child wants to wear rainbows, let them. If your child wants to wear all black, let them. As long as they are able to express themselves in the way that they chose, they will be happier as their authentic self.