HER COMING OF STYLE STORY by Iman M’fah-Traoré

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How much does how we dress say about us – A conversation with Clara Zlotkin

 

A quiet woman with powerful eyes dressed in all black and intriguing jewelry, sits ona faded metal chair in the garden of a charming, unknown house somewhere in the French countryside. Her name is Clara, Clara Zlotkin, and she identifies as a feminine gay woman who dresses like a man. It hasn’t always been this way, however, this is her coming of style story…

What your style says about you…

My style is something in between tomboyish and androgynous. It’s hard to qualify. My uniform is black, black, and black: black jeans with a cool black t-shirt from the brand Sketchy Tank, a flannel on top, and Doc Martens, black of course.

The way I dress definitely has something to do with how I feel about myself. I’ve always loved my personality and my hobbies. I surf, and I draw, take pictures, and travel. But it’s been really hard for me to accept my body for what it is. I wouldn’t say I’m hiding my shape with my manly clothes, but it has taken me a long time to start coming to terms with the way I look. Because I have issues with my, uh, you know, confidence.

Before I would not be able to wear shorts in New York City for example. Even if it was really hot outside, I would be wearing jeans and black, of course. I wouldn’t even be able to wear a t-shirt without a flannel on top because I have always seen my hips as being too wide and too feminine. When I was younger, for awhile, I wanted to be a boy; but, now, I’m glad to be a woman who gets to like women.   

I think that the fact that I dress in a masculine way, more like a boy, has to be linked with my sexuality. If I hadn’t been gay I would not be wearing clothes like this.

 

What you wear and how you present yourself to the world…

I want people to see me as a gay woman, you know. But I’m not dressing like this just so people will see me as a gay woman, no, first, I’m doing this because I like to dress this way and then yeah, sometimes I’ll wear round glasses and a bandanna, maybe for attention; I mean, everyone thinks it’s nice when people find your style cool and say things you think about yourself like, ”oh she’s so gay.” But it’s not for them…Sometimes people find my style confusing and say stuff like “are you a boy,” “are you a girl.” It doesn’t bother me though.  

When I was a kid, I used to dress like a girl, well my parents used to dress me like a girl. At the age of 12, 13, I still used to wear dresses and skirts outside. I think I really settled into my style when I realised I’m gay, maybe around the age of 14, 15. I started wearing dark, neutral coloured clothes for men.

 

Finding yourself through your clothes, an evolution…

Almost everyday I wear a Sketchy Tank t-shirt. First, I like them because they fit me really well. You know, some t-shirts, even if they’re the “good size” won’t fit because I have a woman’s body in men’s clothes. I like wearing them because I often see myself in what’s written. One of my favourites says “peace of mind” with a skull and a peace sign on the back and a wavy peace sign on the front that’s like a bit dazed or something. Another one I like says “get in loser,” it’s a skull driving a car and smoking a cigarette. I also really like one that says “don’t look back.”

My accessories say a lot about me. I can’t go anywhere without them, and I rarely take them off. My ten bracelets are tied on so I cannot take them of; they’ve been there for a really long time now, almost 5 years…I have three necklaces: a shark tooth, a crocodile tooth, and then some silver stuff: something oval-shaped that I found in my mother’s closet and I really liked because it’s like the circle of life but an imperfect circle because in life, there are ups and downs, not like in a perfect circle.

I really think my accesories say more about who I am than my clothes because they are sentimental and they each have a story. Like the shark tooth, it means adaptation and that’s kind of who I am, I can adapt to anything. I discovered that after I already had it. I got it for the same reason I got the crocodile tooth; I surf so when I saw them I was like “I’m gonna put this surf thing on ‘cause it’s gonna be cool.”

My jewelry is personal, for example, I don’t really like showing my necklaces, they’re mostly for me. Then there are my rings. If I don’t put them on I don’t feel safe because I’m really superstitious. I like putting a ring on my thumb, because, it means, well, it says that you’re gay. But it’s also because it’s nice looking. And, yeah, on my silver necklace, I have one ring that broke; I just couldn’t throw it away.

I think the major issue I had with finding my style has to do with my not being comfortable with my feminine curves. Now it’s fine, but ça fait pas longtemps (it hasn’t been long), it really started this year. I think what really pushed me to like my body is my girlfriend. Elle m’a donnée de la confiance en moi même (she gave me self-confidence). Having someone else, feeling appreciated and loved made me more confident, you know. And then there’s also the fact that I’m 19 now and je deviens plus mature (I’m becoming more mature) but I think that if I hadn’t met my girlfriend I would not be same right now.

Last year we went to get my ear pierced and her nose. My earring is probably the only non-sentimental jewelry I wear.

 

When asked why she got a single earring, Clara paused, looked up, touched her ear, and said…“It’s gay”

 

I mean, yeah, you know…Some people have a tattoo because they like the drawing with no meaning. It’s one more accessory, and, since I wear so much black, it’s nice.

 

“I wear what I wear because I’m comfortable in it”

 

Some people dress to impress the people around them. Some people dress for themselves. Some people just don’t care. So, there are three categories I would say. I’d like to think I’m a mix of the three because sometimes I like to impress people, most of the time I dress for myself, and sometimes I don’t care but I have to dress because I can’t just walk around naked in the streets. I think that when I was discovering my sexuality, and I was unsure whether I was gay or bisexual, was the time when I was most confused and I would just dress to dress. But now, more and more I dress for myself. I think it has to do with me being more confident in how I look. I wear what I wear because I’m comfortable in it.   

 

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