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There are approximately 18-eleventy-billion times six blogs, vlogs, articles, magazines, zines, images, tutorials, advertisements, listicles, podcasts, telling women what to wear and not wear. What to wear if you’re a teen and want to be cool. What to wear if you’re in your twenties and want to be hip. What to wear in your twenties if you want to be taken seriously. What to wear in your thirties. What to wear when pregnant. What to wear postpartum. What to wear in your forties. What to wear in your fifties. What to wear to work. What to wear to prom. What to wear to interviews. What to wear to conferences. What to wear to weddings. What to wear at your own wedding. What to wear to dinner parties. What to wear to happy hour. What to wear to work functions that aren’t really work. What to wear to picnics. What to wear to the beach. What to wear while mining gold. What to wear if you’re hiding out from the law in a stolen Airstream twenty miles from the last known pay phone. What to wear if you’re kidnapped by scofflaws in a beat up 50s Caddy. The list is literally endless. About the only thing more plentiful on the internet are porn and opinions about Marvel v DC.

See, I used to be super girly. And climb trees. I was totally the kid who wanted to wear my favorite purple skirt and a pink shirt with boots so I could dance in the rain on an old dirt road. I was the girl who wanted to wear her pretty pink polka dotted nightgown out to climb trees so she could pretend to be the princess who saved the village by hiding out looking for nefarious types and jumping from the highest branches on their imaginary heads. (She always made me wear shorts, but in my head…pink nightie because it was the ruffliest thing I owned.) For the record, I don’t know why I never broken anything leaping out of tree tops into ditches, but the point is, I wanted to be the warrior princess before Xena existed, before Buffy existed….hell, before Donkey Kong and Mario Bros.’s boring-ass princesses existed. (Well, AROUND the time Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. were new and shiny and hadn’t quite made it to my small town, so for all I knew, they didn’t exist. And, yes, I’m old.)

And somewhere along the way, I was taught that I needed to wear serious colors and serious clothes if I wanted anyone to take me seriously. Except I couldn’t afford any of that. So I bought a couple of suit jackets on clearance that weren’t long enough for my gorilla arms and some skirts that were entirely too short because this was still in the era when no one had heard of “tall” women or girls so my skinny, 5’9’ish behind had to shop a lot of petite sections. And I got harassed a lot. And then I got lectured a lot for reacting with a brand of smart-ass instead of giggling and smiling. I never did learn not to talk back.

I did learn to stop buying short skirts. And wearing colors other than navy and black and brown. Although then I got lectured for not looking friendly and approachable or for wearing the same jacket all month because I worked in a place at the time that smelled like an abandoned psychiatric hospital crossed with a boys locker room and a Louisiana swamp. (Why the hell would I want anymore of my wardrobe to smell like that than absolutely necessary.)

When I left the last terrible job, I realized I had no clothes. Karate kicking and age had made my thighs too big for the pants I’d once worn. Almost everything I’d worn at my last job was either falling apart or fit poorly (or had a smell that needed to be shot into the sun). My dresses and suits all dated back to 2005 at the latest. And most of my shoes were flip flops or hand-me-downs.

So, I’ve been rebuilding. And it’s been hard. Because I don’t make much money right now. So I feel like I don’t deserve nice things. At all. And I’m trying to filter out all the noise about all the things I’m not supposed to wear — like leggings because apparently they are for People of Walmart or hookers — and all the things I want to wear — like pretty dresses and leggings because the solve the damn thigh problem, thankyouverymuch.

In other words, I’m learning to say FUCK YOU to both the voices in my head and the voices in the universe who want to keep me down. For the record, these leggings are hella comfy and that dress with the crinoline and the carnations is hella pretty. And if think either will stop me from climbing a tree or kicking some ass, you better watch out.

What are you wearing? What voices are you listening to that you shouldn’t?