I’ve posted on here about my gender expression before, how I feel androgynous but find that difficult to express or show outwardly because my face and body just look clearly (and stereotypically, in a binary world) feminine. It can be incredibly hard to show your androgyny on the outside, even if you feel it inside. I can say ‘you make your own definition of androgyny’ or ‘if you feel androgynous then you are’ and it’s true; you define yourself. However sometimes that isn’t satisfactory and you want other people to look at you the same way you look at yourself. So for the past however long of my life I’ve been searching for ways to express my gender identity. It’s not perfect: I’m not slim, I don’t have great cheekbones, I can’t even manage to get my eyebrows right, but I make do. I’ve found a few ways in which I find, personally, I can express my gender identity and this is just going to be a hella long rambly anecdotal post about that…
Note: I am writing this from a plus-size female’s perspective. I identify as a woman. Just an androgynous one.
Section A: make-up
Now, I myself actually kinda love makeup. I think it’s great that you can change your entire outward appearance and dress it up however you want. I buy all this makeup (I have a million eyeshadow palettes and about thirty lipsticks) yet I never wear any of it because once I put it on, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I feel feminine and like I’m wearing stuff that just doesn’t match me (exactly the same as how I feel if I have to wear a skirt or dress). The best way to describe it is a less extreme version of how trans* people feel when they have to dress as their assigned gender, not their real one. It just feels that wrong and uncomfortable, even if I like the look of it and other people say it looks great.
For me, I think that’s partly because people never call me androgynous or butch or whatever, they always say I’m girly and ‘pretty’ and feminine – which yeah, is true, a lot of the time. But that makes me insecure about how I feel inside because I apparently can’t represent it on the outside. So, when I wear makeup, it’s embracing (traditionally) the ways other people see me and subconsciously I don’t want to encourage that.
All this being said, I wear basic makeup. It makes me feel less self-conscious if I’ve got on foundation, powder and mascara. I also have naturally red cheeks which can only be (slightly) concealed with a green concealer, and then I need to use a foundation or that shows through. So I wear makeup on a day-to-day basis and that’s completely fine. You can wear however much or however little makeup you want. I know and see plenty of male-identifying people who wear bright makeup and they’re none the less manly for it. However, as I said before, due to society and how we’ve been indoctrinated by the binary gender system… it makes me feel less androgynous.
So! Suggested makeup is basic whatever you feel comfy with, then if like me you enjoy experimenting I highly recommend lip stains, cream eyeshadows and filling in your brows.
Lip stains are a great way for getting some colour (I like orange-y reds or super nudes) onto your lips, but having it look almost 100% natural. It makes me happy and confident, and less self-conscious about wearing makeup.
Cream eyeshadows are a new-found love of mine. For one I can never apply powder eyeshadow right, and using just one colour (which is all I have time and patience for) looks slightly 2-dimensional and makes my eyes look smaller, plus it is rare to find a decent brand at a good price in a matte shade. Matte shades are essential. But cream eyeshadows apply super easily – just slap on with your finger and blend out maybe using a brush, look great with just one product and, depending on the colour choice, just add a bit of colour and dimension to emphasise your eyes.
Brows brows brows. We all know how important eyebrows are. Or, if you don’t, I’ve know idea where you’ve been the past year. They define your face, accentuate your eyes and add character. Of course the basic dos and don’ts apply here: don’t overpluck (a single line of hairs is nobody’s friend) and don’t fill in where there isn’t naturally any hairs. Unless you want to or like that look in which case you damn well go ahead and rock it! The sad truth of eyebrows is you may love the look of super-arched, or really thick eyebrows, but simply not naturally have that shape or amount of hairs. You’ve got to (normally) work with what you’ve got. But in general I find, the thicker and slightly bushier looking brows look more androgynous. Take Cara Delevingne or Erika Linder for example.
Products I recommend are:
Collection’s Colour Pout Lipstain @ £4.99 and e.l.f.’s Essential Lip Stain @ £2.95
Maybelline’s Color Tattoo 24hr Cream Gel Eyeshadow in ‘Creamy Beige’ and ‘Permanent Taupe’ @ £4.99
Sleek’s Eyebrow Kit @ £8.49 and the Maybelline Master Shape brow pencil @ £2.99
Section B: clothing
As I’ve mentioned, I am not slim. I do not have an athletic figure nor am I a size 12. So put the curves and the ‘extra’ together and you get a not very typically androgynous body, and someone who finds it hard to get clothes she’s comfortable in or that look good. I tend to have to buy t-shirts and jeans from women’s sections to accommodate for my hips and bust, then just accessorise and dress those clothes up with more androgynous items.
Men’s shirts are a godsend. Every single day for the past I don’t even know how long, I have worn a short. Plaid, flannel, check, stripes, plain… whatever. I own it. I have them in all the colours (though I prefer greys and general dark colours) and ranging from figure-hugging to baggy as hell. And yeah, most are men’s. Several are from women’s departments because that’s generally where I have to shop, but I love nothing more than a soft, baggy vintage men’s flannel. I feel comfortable in them and that means more than anything to me. They also inject some colour into my otherwise entirely-black wardrobe and lift my eyes which I think is pretty good. I recommend looking for a Harper & Lewis Vintage Clothing in your local area: I discovered them since being at university and have bought an embarrassing amount of shirts from them. I’ve never been into the shop and not found a shirt that fits and I love. They’re all pretty well-priced too and sized very well; a small is actually a small and an XL is actually an XL, you know?
Men’s shoes are also a good option. Although men and women’s shoes sometimes have a size difference, if you’re trying on in-store or ordering online from somewhere with a decent returns policy, I recommend sizing up one or a half size. Men’s shoes are (very sexistly) sometimes a lot studier, and they normally don’t have a heel which even some of the more androgynous shoes seem to. Not that a heel can’t be androgynous, it’s just that on me it has the same effect as extra makeup.
Men’s jewellery is another great thing. I love men’s jewellery. It’s all usually chunkier and more silver and leather rather than gold and jewels. I love thick chains and skulls and crosses, and I swear necklaces almost everyday now because there are loads which I love, whereas before I never wore them. Same goes for rings – sizing it often better too, and easier to find rings that fit all of your fingers. I recommend Topman’s jewellery section. They always have a sale on, and with a student card you get a 10% discount. It’s pretty dangerous for me because I’ve bought more jewellery in there in two months than I did elsewhere in two years. But their stuff is pretty well-made and, if on sale, well-priced and just genuinely gorgeous.
Formalwear is a tricky territory for me. Just the other day my dad was asking me what I’d wear to an interview and I realised I have nothing. Again, when I had to attend a funeral, I realised I had nothing besides casual clothes. As much as I’d like to have one, I simply can’t find a nice suit/shirt/tie combo that fits me and looks good, let alone that I feel comfortable in. What I think I need to invest in is a pair of well-tailored black trousers, not baggy but not super tight (perhaps cigarette-style) and a decent blazer. Although I can’t pull off (yet!) a proper suit, I can work up to it. Part of the reason is simply that my bra size means any button-up shirts don’t fit my body all over, even the women’s ones I’ve tried on don’t fit my stomach and my boobs. But as I lose weight hopefully that will change as I get smaller everywhere. Until then, paired with some brogues or boots and a plain white/black/grey ‘fancy’ t-shirt, it should suffice.
There are other things I can touch upon about androgynous appearance, like body or hair or posture, but I don’t feel like that is as ‘important’ as clothes/face is, and this post is already quite long. If anyone would like a post in this new series about something specific then just let me know.
Read the series’ first post by clicking here.