My Style Story

June 2013

It's not what you're wearing, it's why you're wearing it. Series of interviews with interesting people.

Emily McDonald, 25

“I feel like a girl but dress like a boy. The last time I remember wearing a dress and having to look nice was at a family wedding when I was 15; I had long blond hair, straightened by a hairdresser, and a pretty floral dress. I absolutely hated it and was in such a bad mood the whole day that I didn’t talk to anyone.

My sexual identity is the main influence on my style, but after living in east London for a year I realised I don’t have to dress like all the other lesbians, who looked horrible with their piano key braces and checked shirts tucked in jeans and always wore a trilby. Lesbians in general have a horrible style, or then they just don’t care. And for some reason we are all a little bit overweight and under 5’5ft.

I guess I like looking smart, most of my money goes into buying shoes and shirts. I like it when I turn up at a party and my friends say I look handsome.

Gay men and especially lesbians usually have a distinctive style, but I’m not sure whether it’s about peer pressure, kind of a learned cultural thing, or is that how they actually feel. For me it’s always been a question of being comfortable; even before I realised I was a lesbian I hated dressing like I, as a girl, was expected to.

I never used to wear shorts because I thought my legs looked weird, even in the summer I was sweating in long trousers. But when I got tattoos on them, it changed. I guess it’s a defence thing. I hate it when people look at me, but now I can just think that they are not looking at me because I look like a boy and make them confused, but that they are just looking at my tattoos. I’m less self-conscious now. But I still never go to the toilet on my own in a bar, it makes me anxious and I’m afraid being stared at.

My right arm is saved for important tattoos, like about a friendship, my parents’ names, a friend’s charity and death. My left arm is reserved for shit.

I do feel that what you see is what you get, that I look the way I actually am. Although a friend just told me that when she first met me a year ago, she thought I was smart and polite because of the way I dressed, but has now realised how wrong she was.”