Hello everyone, today we are going to have a conversation on what I call autism chic.
It is Autism Month, April. And this day, April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day.
If you do not know, your dear writer, Brittany, is autistic. Now you are aware. I want to start my series of various autism blogs with fashion.
Now, you’re probably what the hell do fashion and autism have to do with each other?
Autism is a complex spectrum of various mental states and abilities. I have it. I was diagnosed with Autism, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, in 2001. I was considered “high functioning” but that’s a topic for another time.
Clothing must be comfortable but stylish? I do not know. Am I doing a fashion?
As I said before I am very concerned and fascinated with beauty standards and fashion even though I know they have a lot of societal, systematic problems.
When I try on clothes I have a few criteria: comfort, price, and style. I usually sort by style, then I try it on to see if it not only “fits” but also feels comfortable on my body, but comfort may not be quite accurate since some clothing can be a bad stimulation for my body.
Clothes fit? Yes, but does it stim?
There are other factors at play as well besides how it feels on my body in the most positive “stimmy” way, there are the style and social factors, I may have to put on formal clothes and it may not always be the right stim, of course reading social cues are part of it. Even some make-up, like lipgloss and lipstick, could not feel right because of a stim.
However, there is another factor, and it is not related to my autism, but rather, my mitigation of gender dysphoria. What happens is part of me rejects an outfit out of fears I’ll look too masculine or not feminine enough or not fitting with how I wish to present myself that day in terms of gendered expression, it could happen even if I am agender or androgynous. Fashion is very much gendered, because of that, people still talk about men’s wear and women’s wear. Comparing and contrasting either is fascinating in its own right, but so is mixing so-called “men’s” and “women’s” clothing, as if they have gender inside the pockets and seams.
Speaking of gender, from what I hear that people evaluate the fashion sense autistic children designated female at birth (AFAB, kids that are often assumed to be girls) as a parameter for an autism diagnosis, not so much for autistic children that were designated male at birth. Other signs they use from what I hear are based on gendered stereotyping but also social performance.
I do want to look more into autism diagnosing as a topic for a later story to write about.
But back to fashion. The stereotypes associated with autism do seem to imply it is not our domain, yet I know some autistic who conform to or even defy conventional beauty standards. As a non-binary trans woman, I do a little bit of both. I am a femme that subverts femininity and even tries to play with many gendered expressions.
Sometimes, I call this androgyny, genderless, or even genderfucked. All of which is non-conformity, despite that I present somewhat conventionally and feminine, which I consider conforming to my gender.
Now, going back to my autism and fashion.
As I retooled my wardrobe through my transition, my comfort was something I was concerned about the fit and look alike. I have also formed a new interest in fashion but more importantly, style, as I made a difference between cultivating a personal style and aesthetic and the social construction and socialized experiences of fashion and beauty standards. I have mentioned these before in a previous blog that had a lot of reads, but as someone who had struggled with fitting in with socialization (IE. making friends, navigating the nuances of various interpersonal relationships, whether familial or professional, at school or at work), I had realized that one part of fitting was the clothing. Clothing makes people and other people judge you on what you wear. My parents told me that, and other people in life did so, in less direct ways.
I remember some people “oh you’re wearing that?” or “why are you wearing this with that?” etc
This was how fashion and by extension beauty standards are enforced.
Some subcultures are identified by dress, especially with high school cliques, to be cliched. These tropes and cliches one sees in media are more stereotypical in reality, but they are pebbles of truth stretched into mountains.
So to summarize, I discussed stereotypes and social conditioning, and went on a tangent on my transition and desired aesthetic and gender presentation.
What would be autistic fashion? Imagine a line of fashionable clothing, so to speak, designed by actually autistic designers? Oh, wouldn’t that be something? I wonder if you had already imagined something.
Based on what I wear, I imagine it would be something comfortable and can be a good pressure stim, which can be adjusted for temperatures in summer or winter. Then, I would constrain it with a certain desired aesthetic that allows me to be a first-rate Brittany. Always be a first-rate you no matter what others say. It is always a good look.
I feel like I repeat myself, but it is worth repeating because it is true, and I have talked about it before.
Now, I would imagine some gender non-conformity or non-standard presentations would be more prevalent. Maybe someday, something like actual androgyny might be more fashionable. Another trait is caring less about high fashion as a top-down standard to be socially enforced, but rather a democratized fashion of styles and aesthetic. People can play with styles, or focus on comfort. It is a diverse fashion, through and through. Some styles are inspired by one’s special interests. Or maybe styling yourself with certain looks is your special interest. Clothing is very fascinating to me.
All in all, I think having a conversation around this and sharing this article with photos of your daily style and aesthetic would promote both me as a writer igniting discussion, but also your aesthetic and yourself. So please share this and keep being your stylish autistic chic selves to my friends on the spectrum!
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