If there’s one thing we can all agree on when it comes to fashion, it is that style is more than the clothing you wear. Fashion reflects one’s culture, one’s self-expression and who that individual is on the inside. For Taylor Spears, college was the first time she felt free enough to be her true self.
“School is where I’ve had the most personal growth,” says Spears. “I can do and dress the way I want to because everything happened here.”
Freedom of expression is often limited among marginalized groups, and LBGTQ+ people have historically been threatened and punished for fashion choices that exhibit visible queerness. Before coming out Taylor reports feeling “self-conscious because I didn’t like who I was”. She elaborates, “I was pretending to be someone else — even when it came down to makeup, hair and what I wore. When I finally let all that go, I was ready to show off my style.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of LGBT Americans surveyed said that society has been more accepting to them in the last decade and expect it to become even less discriminatory in the decade to come. As American culture begins to accept a wider range of expression, fashion is leading the change. In some communities, the simple act of a man wearing pink, or in Taylor’s case, a woman dressing in a shirt from the men’s section, is socially radical.
After coming out, Taylor’s closet grew into a haunting reminder of her “straight-girl” style. Without an affinity for the clothes she had collected over the past 19 years of her life and the money for a new wardrobe, Taylor was stuck. “I had to wake up and put on whatever I owned,” reports Spears. “it only made me feel more and more not like me.”
Thinking the hard part was over, coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or anything in between is not the end of the battle. Now that Taylor’s clothes have gradually begun to reflect her identity in State College, she still does not feel comfortable flaunting her new style at home. “I might wear a dress or a romper when I’m around people who have known me all my life,” says Spears. “I didn’t want to wear a button up shirt, vans and skinny jeans in front of them because they have never seen me dress like that.”
Taylor’s fashion evolution has coincided with her unfinished journey to complete self-acceptance. Today, Taylor describer her style as “sleek” and “making a statement.” Her story reminds us of the power of clothing and the importance of a queer perspective in fashion. Despite a culture that pushed Taylor to suppress and conform, she now can go about the world in an outfit that reflects her true self. “Recently when I’ve been picking out my outfits in the morning” says Spears. “My goal is to stand out.”