Arts & Life
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Credit: KUOW Photos/Megan Farmer

7 Seattleites in outfits that say something

A couple weeks ago, I asked you to tell me the connection between how you dress and who you are. We loved your responses so much we decided to publish them here.

Priya Frank poses for a portrait on February 8th, 2019, in Seattle.
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Priya Frank poses for a portrait on February 8th, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Priya Frank // Age 38

Whether it’s my red jumpsuit, MAC liquid lip, or Revlon Red nail polish, I wear red on days when I am going to do something that makes me nervous, like speak in front of a large crowd or attend a big event by myself where I don’t know anyone.

Durga, one of the most revered goddesses in Hindu mythology, is usually shown wearing a red sari, symbolizing action, destroying evil, and protecting the world from pain and hardship. Incorporating red gives me the feeling of being unstoppable. It’s me paying homage to the power I have within myself so I can channel the best version of me, slay fear and anxiety, and look fabulous while doing so!

Angel Alviar-Langley aka Moonyeka // Age 23

The way I dress is a reclamation of the hyper visibility/invisibility and objectification/exotification I experience on the daily basis based on my queerness, femme-ness, Filipinx-ness and much more.

I grew up teaching myself to be small to minimize the trauma I have experienced. I mean, invisibility is a power right? Going unnoticed would mean I’m not attracting danger to myself (which is an ancient old tale that most people like me, are told).

Angel Alviar-Langley poses for a portrait on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, in Seattle.
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Angel Alviar-Langley poses for a portrait on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

So if you’re going to notice to me, it’s because I am choosing to draw your eye to me. Can you really silence me, erase me, minimize if my presence is loud?

i.

am.

here.

[Read the sister story: Fashion while female: Seattle responds to #metoo and Trump]


David Rue // Age 29

The way that I dress is a literal portrait of my identity.

I'm obsessed with the fact that I can use things like color, pattern, textile, and drape to communicate who I am, where I come from, and what I believe in.

I really do see the marriage between fashion and personal power as a holy matrimony that's to be celebrated!

This bond allows me to express who I am while simultaneously providing a counter narrative to the all too often bleak and negative portrayals of the African body.

David Rue poses for a portrait on Thursday, February 7, 2019, in Seattle.
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David Rue poses for a portrait on Thursday, February 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Becky Witmer // Age 41

I am a female arts manager with curly hair, and I think hair and fashion matter.

We have a whole department and staff at the theater dedicated to building costumes and wigs that make actors look a certain way and define their character. How you look says something – though absolutely not everything – about you. ...

Last month I joined Rent the Runway’s monthly membership so that I can sample looks without having to commit. So far so good. Any not-for-profit manager will agree that we are short on time and my bandwidth for decision making is dedicated to the theater. The less I time I spend searching — and spending money on things I don’t want — the better.

Betsey Brock and Becky Witmer pose for portraits at Freeway Park in Seattle.
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Betsey Brock and Becky Witmer pose for portraits at Freeway Park in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Betsey Brock // Age 48

I inherited a love for bright colors and bold prints and an undying loyalty to Lilly Pulitzer and Marimekko shifts from my grandmother, Virginia Lee Burton. She was super preppy, Oklahoma country club style.

I've always loved a dress made like a sack. Not just comfortable, but fall-asleep-in-it-after-the-show comfortable.

As I've grown into work that requires me to be in charge, I've tried to polish it up a little. BIG bold glasses were a big shift for me; and maybe were the tipping point into feeling like I could convincingly dress like a grownup. I've been wearing this GIANT shape from Ottica Carraro for about two years. They eliminate the need for eye makeup, which is awesome, because that's never been my thing.

In this dumpster fire of an political, economic, ecological era, I consider longevity and repair in my fashion choices. I am also more set in my ways, and less likely to follow trends.

Maybe it's just getting older, or maybe it's a general Marie Kondo-ization of possessions, but I have fewer clothes, and I adore a bigger percentage of them. I also give far less shits about what I am "supposed" to dress like.

Huong Vu poses for a portrait on Thursday, February 14, 2019, in Seattle.
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Huong Vu poses for a portrait on Thursday, February 14, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Huong Vu // Age 50

My current style is a confluence of optimism and rebellion.

To get over the post-election blues, I chopped off 14 inches of hair and wear head to toe pink.

Women of color are often taught to recede into the background. Fashion is an amplifier of our hope, power, and place in the world.

Imana Gunawan // Age 24

I've always expressed myself through my clothes, because I learned by example from women and elders in my life.

Imana Gunawan poses for a portrait on Monday, February 18, 2019, in Seattle.
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Imana Gunawan poses for a portrait on Monday, February 18, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Even though I often use clothing as an armor, it's never been about hiding anything. It's about amplifying the elements of myself that fuel me the most on a particular day and use it to tell a story.

Some days that means a light blue corset with matching pants and a batik cloth that my mother gave to me; other days it might look like plaid bathing suit top with a full circle skirt and a crisp white shirt tied around my waist.

I try to keep it fun, not follow rules and just wear what gives me joy. And if it doesn't, trust that I'll be the first to turn back around and change my entire outfit no matter how late I am.

My mindset is "You can beat me but you can't beat my outfit."

I think the socio-political-cultural forces that have led the American society to where it is right now have always been there since European colonizers set shores in this land. So the era of Trump, of Me Too, of all these cultural reckonings don't affect how I dress.

Whoever the next president is, I'll still have to balance the strategic decisions between my personal safety in a society that was not made for me, and my need to assert myself through my clothing.

Shauna Ahern

Shauna Ahern poses for a portrait on Thursday, January 24, 2019, on Vashon Island. Ahern was so angry after the election of Donald Trump that she shaved her head. Then she pierced her ears, bought a tube of bright red Maybelline lipstick and started wearing a pair of red cowboy boots. “I spent my first 20 years trying to make myself as quiet as possible,” she said. She wanted a change.
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Shauna Ahern poses for a portrait on Thursday, January 24, 2019, on Vashon Island. Ahern was so angry after the election of Donald Trump that she shaved her head. Then she pierced her ears, bought a tube of bright red Maybelline lipstick and started wearing a pair of red cowboy boots. “I spent my first 20 years trying to make myself as quiet as possible,” she said. She wanted a change.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap // Age 41

I'm a 41-year-old, Asian-American community college president.

As a curvy woman of color, with naturally curly hair, growing my career, I've struggled with what to wear to work at each stage of my career.

As I grew in responsibility, the women around me tended to be older white women of a particular income bracket (north of mine), so it was either traditional pant suits and blouses or what I dubbed "the Chico's look" (drapey tunics, eclectic colors) and an interesting necklace from a trip to Guatemala.

For years I tried to find a look that was professional and also me. But my work-wear ended up being pants that didn't quite fit and pieces that looked professional but that I hated. I straight-ironed my hair or wore it in a bun to look put together.

As an Asian-American woman, I found it challenging to not "look young" and to face the microaggressions that come with that ("Oh, but you look so YOUNG!" Followed by, "It's a compliment!") I still can't get into all the ruffles and bell sleeves right now because I feel like I still have to battle presumptions that I look young, therefore I lack in experience, therefore I'm not competent in a statewide system of presidents who are predominantly white male. Dammit, that was a sentence that started with bell sleeves and ended with the patriarchy.

As for where I've landed today, I wear colorful dresses or skirts with blazers, and I enjoy bold prints. I wear my hair long and have embraced my natural curls. I feel very comfortable in my skin, but I'm also in a top leadership role, so this comfort may be the privilege of the role.

A collection of polaroid images are arranged on Thursday, February 21, 2019, at KUOW Public Radio in Seattle.
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A collection of polaroid images are arranged on Thursday, February 21, 2019, at KUOW Public Radio in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Produced for the web by Isolde Raftery and Megan Farmer.

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