I wanted my alter ego to portray a side of me that does not get shown often and is the complete opposite of how I normally live. I had been kicking around the idea of being more “feminine” or dressier than I normally am for a while. Although I did consider the idea of posing as a French exchange student, which would tap into my French minor and would include my not shaving. Something that I think would have received a lot of controversial responses. Yet I felt like this would not push me as much as I wanted. So I decided to go with glamming up. I wanted to create this fancier identity for myself, opposed to the one that is used to t shirts, jeans, and being makeup free. Since fashion can act as a kind of language and draws on “a shared pool of meanings applicable to clothes [which are] unambiguous or if ambiguous that there are agreed ways…that instruct us how to interpret one’s appearance” (Tsëelon, 112), I wanted to see what kind of message I would send off as a more made-up individual. I am a person who takes a more schizoid attitude and believes that “trying to be fashionable would be extremely exhausting, strange and annoying”(Bonelli, pg 168). So I attempted a more histrionic approach to dressing, putting a lot of emphasis and effort into my outward appearance. Normally I allow my dressed body to be “actively produced through particular, routine, and mundane practices” (Entwistle, 49), so my alter ego embraced the concept that “identity is dependent on appearance” (Campbell pg 16).
To perform my alter ego, I chose four locations to spread out the necessary time. I débuted my alter ego at a Halloween party, where I was in character for five hours. Although I had not yet made a concrete decision about my project, I had formulated the idea of being femininely dressed up early on. I’m including this in my project as my idea for my alter ego really did begin back then, and Halloween seemed like the perfect opportunity and excuse to dress up. To this Halloween house party, I dressed up as a black cat. I mean, what’s sexier than a cat, right? I wore super tight black clothing, curled my hair, and did my make-up. I chose my outfit because it was something that I had and something that was flattering on my body, as well as suggestive enough to break away from my comfort zone. I did classic cat make-up with heavy black liner and lots of mascara to make my eyes pop, and whiskers. My personal reaction to this was immediate discomfort to the amount of make-up on my face and the constant awareness to my face and my inability to touch it. The responses of the public included the attention of a guy who said that my confidence influenced his decision to talk to me. I was not anticipating this, as there were perhaps a dozen other black cats at the party. I guess Tsëelon is correct in stating that it is the “sum total of the ingredients that make a look, as well as the fit and manner in which it is worn” (118).
My second outing in my alter ego was out to dinner with a friend on November 25, 2013. I just returned home for Thanksgiving holiday. Part of this day included some time at home in my hair and makeup to add to the project the experience of my alter ego as part of my getting ready for the day routine. For this outfit, I wore pink, of which I cannot stand and avoid wearing at all costs. I was expressing a feminine stereotype and how “dress modifies the body, embellishing and inflecting it with meanings which, are gendered” (Campbell, pg 38). Incorporating full makeup and hair into my daily routine was extremely time-consuming and annoying. While I usually take all of two minutes to get ready for the day, I somehow ate up an hour and a half of my morning getting ready. When I went out to dinner, I wore tight burgundy jeans, a black t-shirt, and a pink jacket, with six-inch heels. There was literally no reaction from people other than my family, who was shocked to see me out of my sweats. I guess I looked pretty comfortable, sipping my blueberry margarita, in my stilettos and pink.
Thanksgiving Day was my next alter ego act. I dressed up for our casual family dinner. I wore printed leggings and a black top and tall boots with a little heel. After running a 10k on Thanksgiving morning, I definitely didn’t feel like dressing up. But I still put my face on and did my hair, although I adjusted the amount glamour to fit the family dinner. I was adapting my alter ego to my social situation, as Entwistle suggests that when “dressed inappropriately for a situation we feel vulnerable and embarrassed” and that different situations “operate with different codes of dress” (49). Again there was not much response, other than my family noticing that I was more “done up” than usual.
The last time I got in touch with my persona was at my second Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. I wore a dress that I made, tall boots, and curled my hair. Getting ready was annoying today, as I was so busy helping cook and working on homework that I started to run out of time before the rest of the family arrived for dinner. I missed greeting them when they first got to our house. What was even worse was I did not get to take part in my two little brother’s memorial service for their pet caterpillar. I felt just awful when I heard my eight year-old brother reading the heartfelt eulogy for his pet, through my bathroom window where I was busy “painting” my face. in that moment, I felt like I embodied narcissism and a histrionic approach to identity. I was putting emphasis on my appearance, instead of being a part of an emotional experience of my siblings. I was letting fashion be a “substitute for higher values” (Bonelli, 168). Reactions from my family included comments about my dress, because I made it.
In reflection, this project was not what I anticipated. Unfortunately, due to time and being a broke college student, I wasn’t able to dress up or go out as much as I would have liked. I had to work with what I had. I was hoping to play more into female stereotypes and attend dressier occasions. But I did not have the money or time to go shopping for dresses to make up the lack thereof in my closet. Perhaps I would have gained more public response had I displayed more of the “sexual meanings which are entrenched within the culturally established definitions of femininity” (Entwistle, 54). I also was planning on adding a behavioral dimension to the project, but that did not happen. But, still, I feel like I did learn some valuable things from this experience.
I discovered that I am extremely grateful that this was just an alter ego, and not an everyday occurrence. It was a real drag to put so much time and effort into my appearance, especially during such a busy time due to homework and other projects. I have a great appreciation for my low-key and uninvolved image. Getting “glammed up” is so time-consuming and eats up a lot of valuable time that could be spent on getting more important things done. I am super thankful that my self- value comes from my achievements and not my appearance. I have higher values that are focused on interiority, rather than the exterior which “reflects….egocentrisim” (Bonelli, 167). My self-esteem is “maintained by creative activity [that confirms my] originality and uniqueness” (Bonelli, 169).
I developed “the epidermic self-awareness” (Entwistle, 45) which comes from dressing uncomfortably. I was not used to wearing tight clothing, or dresses, pink, or that much make-up. I was highly self-aware. This was rather annoying at family gatherings or being home when all I wanted to do was relax or nap, but could not because of the feeling thatI was going to mess up my hair or makeup.
Also, due to the lack of public response, I learned that it was not unnatural for me to make my alter ego a regular thing. It did not seem out of the ordinary for me to wear make-up and feminine clothing. I was dressing within the confines of what is socially deemed proper for a twenty-two year old college student to wear. If dress is the result of a “complex negotiation between the individual and the social” (Entwistle, pg 51), then I understand how to dress within what is socially accepted among my peers. As I had a range of different locations, I also adapted my persona to fit the “bounds of what is defined in a situation as a normal body and appropriate dress” (Entwistle, pg 49). I unconsciously was paying attention to “the norms of particular spatial situations”; through exposure to media and society, I have internalized these “particular rules and norms of dress” (Entwistle, 50).
I found this project to be over-all insightful into my own sense of image and identity, as well as a good experience of walking in someone else’s shoes. It took me out of my comfort zone and made me focus on something that I normally put on the back burner. I definitely feel like this project was a success.